Dallas has recently pushed to make the city more geared for pedestrians after recent cases of pedestrians being killed by cars. Activists suggest that lowering speed limits could help mitigate the issue.
Dallas ranked the second highest in traffic fatalities for major cities between 2015 and 2019, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Fort Worth was ranked fourth in the same data set.
Dallas has an average of 14.11 deaths per 100,000 people from traffic accidents, while the national average is 11.22. At least 36% of severe crashes involved a pedestrian.
This has led the Dallas City Council to pass measures in an attempt to increase pedestrian safety.
The Dallas City Council recently passed an ordinance by a vote of 14-1 to fine persons and panhandlers from loitering on roads with less than a six-foot median in an effort to combat pedestrian fatalities, as reported by The Dallas Express.
In January, the city council reviewed a Vision Zero plan which aims to completely eliminate all traffic-related deaths and reduce injuries by more than half.
The Dallas City Council unanimously passed this plan in June with the intention of improving sidewalk and road design, as well as infrastructure to reduce pedestrian deaths.
“We have to become pedestrian and cycling and scooter-centric,” Dallas council member Omar Narvaez claimed in a city council meeting earlier this year. “We have to become less car-centric.”
However, reaching the goals set by the plan would require a fundamental shift in how Dallas residents view the city’s transportation systems, Robin Stallings, executive director of advocacy and education group Bike Texas, told The Dallas Express. And much of it, he claimed, comes down to simply how fast people drive.
“It’s almost like we’re choosing speed over safety, in a way, for our transportation systems,” Stallings said, explaining that speed is the biggest issue in regard to fatalities among pedestrians and bicyclists. “There’s a big difference between the severity of injuries if someone is hit at 25 (mph) or 35 or 40.”
According to the AAA Foundation, the average risk of death for a pedestrian is 10% at 16 mph, 25% at 32 mph, 50% at 42 mph, 75% at 50 mph, and 90% at 58 mph. The chances of death vary between ages, with a 75-year-old pedestrian’s likelihood of dying from a car driving at 25 mph comparable to that of a 30-year-old pedestrian hit by a car driving at 35 mph.
“A lot of times, it’s not just the posted speed but the design of the roadway,” he said. “If the lines are wide and really straight, people tend to drive faster.”
But Stallings said narrowing the lanes of traffic, adding islands, and other treatments can improve the situation for pedestrians and bicyclists. “A lot of this can be engineered,” he said.
For Bike Texas’ part, Stallings said it has historically focused on bike and pedestrian safety education to combat the high cost of traffic accidents. But he suggested that even more important than education is engineering.
He said adding flashing lights to intersections is one immediate thing that can be done to help decrease pedestrian traffic deaths, such as the ones recently installed on Swiss Avenue and North Munger Boulevard, as previously reported by The Dallas Express.
“I can see how that can be a big help,” Stallings said. “There are a lot of pedestrians walking around Swiss Avenue. It’s a very nice place to walk.”