Seattle's slower driving speeds make it safer for pedestrians, analysis finds
Seattle drivers tend to drive slower than the national average on pedestrian-heavy roadways, making those streets safer for people on foot, according to a new report.
- About 45% of major Seattle roads with frequent pedestrian traffic have average vehicle speeds under 25 mph. That's compared to a U.S. average of 36%.
Driving the news: The findings are based on a report from StreetLight Data, which tracks mobility trends using anonymized cellphone data and other sources.
- The group's objective was to understand how fast vehicles are actually going and the impact on pedestrian safety, creating what it calls a "Safe Speed Index."
Zoom in: Among the 30 largest U.S. cities, Seattle had the eighth best Safe Speed Index.
- That follows the city's decision in 2016 to reduce default speed limits from 30 mph to 25 mph on arterial roads, and from 25 mph to 20 mph on many smaller streets.
- A recent study found that after Seattle lowered those speed limits, the likelihood of injury crashes decreased by 17% to 20%.
Plus: According to data from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, pedestrians are twice as likely to be killed in a collision when a car is traveling at 30 mph compared to 20 mph.
Yes, but: Pedestrian fatalities in Seattle have continued to rise, as have overall traffic deaths — an upward trend that city transportation officials called "concerning" in a recent report.
Zoom out: Nationwide, the biggest danger zones for pedestrians are fast-moving roads alongside busy retail and service areas with lots of foot traffic.
- In urban areas, such arterial roadways make up about 15% of all roads but account for 67% of pedestrian deaths, per StreetLight Data.
By the numbers: More than 7,500 pedestrians were struck and killed by cars in the United States in 2022 — the most in 41 years, according to a separate report from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA).
- Washington state's rate of pedestrian deaths was lower than the U.S. average, at 1.67 deaths per 100,000 people, compared to 2.3 per 100,000 nationally.
What they're saying: "Every day, 20 people go for a walk and do not return home," GHSA CEO Jonathan Adkins said in a statement.
- "The saddest part is that these crashes are preventable. We know what works: better-designed infrastructure, lower speeds, addressing risky driving behaviors that pose a danger to people walking."
What's next: The Biden administration is proposing a new rule that would set higher performance standards for automatic emergency braking and pedestrian-detection technology that could potentially reduce pedestrian deaths.
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