The Salt Lake-Ogden region is the 17th most dangerous metro area in the nation for pedestrians, a new study says.
The same study also says that on a per mile basis, walking in America is far more dangerous than flying, driving or riding a bus or train.That's according to a report Thursday by the Surface Transportation Policy Project, a coalition mostly of environmental groups that contends too little transportation money is spent to protect pedestrians.
It ranked metro areas of more than 1 million people according to how many pedestrians were hurt or killed in traffic accidents - and Salt Lake City-Ogden was the 17th worst.
It said federal data for 1996 showed 81 pedestrians were hurt or killed there; 18 percent of all the area's traffic fatalities and injuries were pedestrians; and that 3 percent of all commuters in the Salt Lake City-Ogden area walked to work.
It combined that into a "pedestrian danger index" rating of 43 on a scale of 1 to 100, where 100 is the most dangerous.
Local police say the reconstruction of I-15 is the primary factor propelling the area into a deadly zone for pedestrians.
"We've had a 200 percent increase in traffic on some streets," said Salt Lake Police Lt. Phil Kirk.
"More people are using Seventh East and State Street," he said.
In West Valley, detective Armand Casanova said traffic congestion is fueling impatience, a condition that naturally leads to accidents.
"Autos and pedestrians don't mix. The loser is going to be the pedestrian always," he said. "And we can protect ourselves as pedestrians: stay away from dark areas, go into lighted areas if you are going to walk anywhere, cross at crosswalks, these kind of things."
The worst large metro area in America, according to the study, was Orlando, Fla., with a pedestrian danger index of 95.
The study also noted that 5,157 pedestrians were killed on the nation's streets in 1996 - which it said is more "than headline-grabbing causes of death such as random gun violence, airbags or the e-coli bacteria."
Also using U.S. Department of Transportation data, the study said it figured the per-mile fatality rate for different modes of transportation - and walking is by far the most dangerous.
It said the fatality rate for transit buses is 0.1 per billion miles traveled; 0.2 for airplanes; 0.5 for Amtrak trains; 10.5 for automobiles; and for walking is between 147 (if a high estimate of miles walked is used) and 316.2 (if a low estimate of miles walked is used).
The study also said Utah is the 14th most dangerous state for child pedestrians, with an average annual child pedestrian death rate of 3.94 per 100,000 population.
The study said, "Such deaths are not simply a result of a childish failure to `look both ways,' " but are caused largely by the design of modern neighborhood roads and their failure to provide more safety for pedestrians. In Utah, 74 percent of accidents with pedestrians occurred on small neighborhood roads.
The study said streets in the most dangerous metro areas were largely "developed after World War II, when traffic engineering standards focused on enhancing the speed and access of automobiles.
"Safe places to walk were generally not provided, so sprawl contributed to an environment where today pedestrians have truly become an endangered species," the study said.
It urged reversing that situation by requiring all new streets to include safe sidewalks; use techniques to slow down neighborhood traffic; focus efforts to fix problem areas, especially where children walk; and develop pedestrian safety master plans.
Worst walking areas
The top 10 most dangerous metropolitan areas for pedestrians, according to a study released Thursday by the Washington-based Surface Transportation Policy Project:
1. Orlando, Fla.
2. Tampa-St.Petersburg-Clearwater, Fla.
3. Miami-Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
4. Providence-Pawtucket-Fall River, R.I.-Mass.
6. Houston, Galveston, Brazoria, Texas
8. Los Angeles-Anaheim-Riverside, Calif.
9. Buffalo-Niagra Falls, N.Y.
10. Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill, N.C.-S.C.