GAO Analyzes Actions to Increase Pedestrians' and Cyclists' Safety

GAO noted that most 2013 traffic crashes that resulted in a pedestrian's or cyclist's death involved men, occurred in urban areas, happened in clear weather conditions, and most frequently took place between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.

A recent General Accountability Office report analyzes actions by states, cities, and DOT to increase pedestrians' and cyclists' safety, at a time when these categories of fatalities and injuries are a growing percentage of all traffic fatalities and injuries. Pedestrian fatalities comprised 10.9 percent of all traffic deaths nationwide in 2004 but 14.5 percent in 2013, while cyclists represented 1.7 percent of all United States traffic deaths in 2004 but 2.3 percent in 2013, according to GAO, which did the analysis at the request of members from U.S. House of Representatives transportation committees and subcommittees.

GAO also noted that most 2013 traffic crashes that resulted in a pedestrian's or cyclist's death involved men, occurred in urban areas, happened in clear weather conditions, and most frequently took place between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. Factors that may have contributed to them included increased walking and cycling trips, alcohol use, distracted road users, and road design practices.

"Officials from states and cities in GAO's review reported that they have implemented a number of efforts, but face challenges in addressing pedestrian and cyclist safety. For example, states and cities reported collecting and analyzing data on walking and cycling activity and crashes to develop safety efforts. Officials said that a variety of engineering standards have been used to design more walking or cycling facilities, such as sidewalks or bike lanes. State and city officials also reported implementing education and enforcement initiatives. In addition, three jurisdictions reported that they implemented Vision Zero programs, which are comprehensive initiatives to integrate data collection, engineering, education, and enforcement actions. However, state and city officials GAO interviewed most often cited challenges with prioritization, data, engineering, and funding in addressing pedestrian and cyclist safety," according to the agency. "Prioritizing safety in this area can be difficult according to officials because of, for example, differing state and city perspectives on transportation investments. Limited or no walking and cycling trip data or incomplete and unreliable crash data also hinder efforts, according to many officials. Problems with existing roadways, such as wide lanes that may encourage drivers to speed and limited pedestrian and cyclist facilities, were also indicated as safety challenges. Officials also noted that funding issues can limit the ability to address pedestrian and cyclist safety. These challenges may be interrelated: according to some officials, limited data on walking and cycling trips can hinder the development of a performance-based approach, which could assist jurisdictions in prioritizing pedestrian and cycling safety."

GAO found that DOT has implemented and plans to take further actions to help improve pedestrians' and cyclists' safety, citing the Mayors' Challenge--part of DOT's Safer People, Safer Streets initiative--that encourages officials to prioritize pedestrian and cyclist safety. DOT oversees 13 funding programs that can award funds--$676.1 million in 2013--to be used on pedestrian and cyclist safety.

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