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Study: Arizona Streets Rank Among Most Dangerous for Pedestrians

A Traffic HAWK (High-intensity Activated crossWalK beacon) installed on a Phoenix street makes crossing the road safer for pedestrians. (City of Phoenix)
A Traffic HAWK (High-intensity Activated crossWalK beacon) installed on a Phoenix street makes crossing the road safer for pedestrians. (City of Phoenix)
July 15, 2019

PHOENIX – With pedestrian deaths increasing rapidly in recent years, Arizona streets now rank as some of the most dangerous in the country.

A new study by the advocacy group Smart Growth America ranks Arizona among the top 10 most dangerous for auto-pedestrian fatalities, with one section of Phoenix the deadliest in the country.

The study also found that older adults, people of color, and those in low-income communities are disproportionately involved in fatal pedestrian crashes.

Dana Kennedy, state director of AARP Arizona, says the way some Arizona cities design their streets make them more dangerous for pedestrians.

"The way streets are laid out is for vehicles,” she explains. “We haven't done a good job including pedestrians into the mix.

“If you go to a city like Washington, D.C., cars are used to seeing pedestrians and having to deal with pedestrians, and they've adjusted their crosswalk accordingly."

The report shows that in the past decade, the number of people struck and killed while walking increased by 35% across the U.S.

The number of Arizona pedestrian deaths grew 63% between 2011 and 2018, with most of them in the larger cities.

Groups such as AARP and others are pushing local governments to adopt policies to make their streets less dangerous for those who walk.

Kennedy says installing devices on busy streets, such as traffic HAWK beacons, which can detect someone walking across a street and halt traffic, could save many lives.

"If you look at some areas where they've actually put islands, they put the HAWKs where you actually push a button to be able to cross the street,” she states. “Those are all fixes, and also let's look at the speed. When you do decrease speed, you do decrease cars hitting and killing people."

Kennedy says older Arizonans often are forced to walk, rather than drive, and are more vulnerable to fast moving vehicles.

"With older people sometimes they can no longer drive,” she points out. “So, they have to walk, and they have physical limitations. So, we need to adjust accordingly."

Kennedy says street improvements across Arizona are happening at an uneven pace in different cities.

For example, she says the city of Tempe has approved a prevention program called Vision Zero, with fewer fatalities, while neighboring Phoenix, with the highest rate of deaths in the state, has rejected the plan.

Disclosure: AARP Arizona contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Consumer Issues, Health Issues, Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Mark Richardson, Public News Service - AZ