Our Spartanburg personal injury attorneys know that at some point each day, no matter who we are or what we do for a living, we are all pedestrians. Young or old, rich or poor, walking is done for pleasure and out of necessity.
As we’ve reported in an earlier post to our North Carolina Personal Injury Lawyers blog, between 2005 and 2009, North Carolina received more than $15.5 million in federal funds to promote and implement numerous Safe Route to School projects. SRTS (which obviously targets school-aged pedestrians and their families), is just one of many pedestrian-friendly federal programs that aim to revisit how Americans perceive transportation.
Why? Because pedestrian fatalities represent 11.8 percent of total traffic deaths each year yet less than 1.5 percent of federal transportation funds are allocated to sustain safe pedestrian and cycling projects nationwide. In fact, Transportation for America reports that on a state-by-state level less than five percent of federal transportation dollars go toward traffic calming, multi-use paths, sidewalks and crosswalks, or traffic safety initiatives (like SRTS).
Urban sprawl, thoughtless growth and poorly-planned communities have pedestrians, cyclists and motor vehicles competing – rather than sharing – road space. And pedestrians are paying with their lives. A subject close to home for Carolina drivers and their families. Raleigh-Cary, NC ranks sixth on the T4America 2007-08 index of Most Dangerous U.S. Cities for Walking. (Interestingly enough, nine out of 10 cities were located in the South.) The North Carolina Department of Transportation reports that 155 people were killed in North Carolina pedestrian accidents in 2008.
Raleigh-Cary was the fifth-most dangerous in North Carolina when the rate of fatal pedestrian accidents in smaller cities was taken into account. The most dangerous cities were Rocky Mount, Wilmington, Burlington and Greenville.
Hickory, Charlotte, Goldsboro, Asheville and Winston-Salem rounded out the Top Ten. The most dangerous cities for South Carolina pedestrian accidents were Sumter, Myrtle Beach, Spartanburg, Florence and Anderson.
For the folks at T4America, the solution is simple to articulate and more challenging to implement. Urban planning needs to embrace the walkable community concept. Embed into city planning pedestrian access. Street design with foot traffic in mind. Traffic calming devices that are constructed to slow traffic (and have been proven more effective in slowing speeds than enforcement). Sidewalks. Crosswalks. Pedestrian signage.
A third characteristic is the concept of “complete streets” – where design, flow, existing traffic patterns – all share in street engineering. Bike paths. Median islands. Bus stops that provide comfortable shelter. Main Street-to-neighborhood access. School paths. And about that…
Safe Routes to School is part of the walkable community plan.
The benefits of cultivating walkable communities are numerous. From strictly a health perspective, at a time when more Americans are overweight and struggle with heart disease and diabetes, encouraging walking is an excellent way to combat all three. And, with safer walkways there are fewer pedestrian fatalities as well. From a practical perspective, transportation is the second highest expense to a family budget. We spend more on our wheels than on food, health care and clothing. Walking more means driving less. Driving less means spending less.
The North Carolina personal injury lawyers with Lee & Smith know that being involved in a serious or fatal car accident, or losing a loved one to a fatal car crash, can be among the most trying times in your life. We hope that if you are involved in a serious car accident from Wilkesboro to Rutherfordton or anywhere else across the state, you will call us at 1-800-887-1965 or email our law offices to schedule a free consultation to discuss your rights.