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How a city eliminated pedestrian deaths

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Posted at 1:21 PM, Sep 01, 2022

No matter where one lives, the roads are likely getting more dangerous. Pedestrian deaths due to car crashes have increased nationwide in recent years, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A decade ago, more than 30,000 Americans were dying in car crashes every year. Last year, that number cleared 40,000. 

It’s especially stark in cities where the population keeps growing.

Greg Francese, a transportation planner in Hoboken, New Jersey, said their numbers were rising too. However, they appear to have figured out the problem and addressed it.

No pedestrians have died in a car crash in over five years in Hoboken.

“We looked at the crash data for the past five years, and we know that 88% of crashes involving people that are walking or people that are biking were happening at our intersections,” Francese said. 

Hoboken’s intersections now show the solutions: bike racks and plots of plants. They both consume physical space close to street corners and prevent cars from parking there. When people need to cross, they don’t need to peer around cars to see if others are coming. 

On the 10th and Washington, when the "DON’T WALK" sign changes to "WALK," all stop lights stay red for seven seconds to give pedestrians the first right of way. 

Pam Shadel Fischer, who works for the Governors Highway Safety Association, knows most cities aren’t like Hoboken and that cities are only half of the issue. 

“Rural fatalities account for almost half of roadway deaths in our country,” Fischer said. “But 19% of the population is living in rural areas. So, what does that tell you?” 

In rural areas, traffic fatalities are more likely to happen during the day.

“The post-crash care piece is so critical in rural areas where the distances are so great. You know, you may be involved in a crash, and the closest trauma center where you need treatment is three hours away,” Fischer said.

But no matter the type of town, there are proven solutions for what works. All Hoboken did was follow them. 

“I’m proud of how we’ve been doing a lot of small things that collectively have had a big impact,” Francese said.