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Report: Street Design Poses Threat to TN Pedestrians

June 13, 2011

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Crossing the road in Tennessee can be deadly. A new report from Transportation for America says in the last decade, 806 Tennesseans were killed in accidents along the roadside while they were walking - almost 200 of them on rural roads.

Nationwide, more than 47,000 people were killed, according to John Robert Smith, president of Reconnecting America.

"That's the equivalent of one fully loaded jumbo jet crashing every month, so this is real. These are people we know and love, and we need to take it seriously. We need to begin to change how we design and engineer our streets."

In addition to the deaths, 688,000 Americans were injured.

Smith, a former mayor of Meridian, Miss., says pedestrians account for nearly 12 percent of all traffic fatalities, but only 1.5 percent of federal transportation funds are allocated to retrofitting roads with sidewalks and other pedestrian safety features. New federal legislation, called the "Safe and Complete Streets Act," would make more money available for safety-oriented infrastructure.

Smith says it's not all about finding new sources of funds. Instead, he urges, the pot of money should be divvied up more wisely.

"Can you put a price on the life of your fellow citizen? Is there a number at which we have an acceptable kill ratio? I don't think there is a price that's worth that loss."

The report finds that wide roads designed to maximize traffic volume are particularly high-risk for walkers and bicyclists because those designs often lack sidewalks and crosswalks. Transportation for America outlines several proposals for increasing pedestrian safety, including a nationwide "complete streets" policy.

The full report, "Dangerous By Design," is available at http://t4america.org.

Laura Thornquist, Public News Service - TN