It can happen anywhere, anytime: Every two hours, a pedestrian is killed because a street or crosswalk is unsafe.
It happens most often where those streets and crosswalks are not designed with adequate pedestrian safeguards in mind. And it happens more often to older pedestrians.
Though older Americans make up only 14 percent of the population, they represented nearly 20 percent of pedestrian fatalities in 2013. Fully one-fifth of people 65 and older do not drive, which often leaves walking as one of the main ways of getting around. Yet almost half of respondents to an AARP survey of people 50 and older said that they cannot safely cross the main roads in their neighborhoods.
Crossing the street shouldn’t have to mean crossing your fingers and hoping for the best. While unsafe streets disproportionately affect older people, safe streets are for everyone. It is critically important to adopt policies that ensure our streets are designed for all who use them — pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and public transportation users of all ages. All of us need safe and efficient streets. That won’t happen without change.
Fortunately, Reps. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) and David Joyce (R-Ohio) have introduced bipartisan legislation, the Safe Streets Act, H.R. 2071, to help ensure that future investments create appropriate and safe transportation facilities for all those using our nation’s roads, regardless of age and ability.
The legislation would direct state and regional planners and traffic engineers to consider all users, so that our roadways and intersections include features to improve safety—such as sidewalks, proper crosswalk signal timing and bicycle lanes—as are found appropriate for each community. Planners would have two years to adopt safe “complete” streets policies to ensure that the safety needs of all roadway users are taken into account during the design, planning, construction, reconstruction, rehabilitation, maintenance and operating phases of transportation projects. The policy would apply to federally funded new and reconstructed projects. Since the Safe Streets approach uses existing dollars, minimal or no additional spending is needed.
States and communities have already begun to respond to growing public safety concerns, and that trend is accelerating. Jurisdictions of all sizes and in all locations have adopted “complete streets” policies. The number now exceeds 700 in 30 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. AARP has been an active advocate for many of these state and local policies.
But safer streets aren’t an issue just for urban areas. Small towns, often in rural areas, account for nearly 20 percent of total policies.
We can do better to make roads safer for all Americans.
AARP supports the Safe Streets approach because it would ensure that federal transportation infrastructure investments provide safe travel for all. It would help ensure that all users are safe, that scarce transportation dollars are spent wisely, and that Americans have choices in how they move around their neighborhoods.
Join us in making America’s streets safer. Go here to find out how you can weigh in with your support for safer streets—and ask your members of Congress to support it, too.
Also of Interest
- It's time to champion unpaid family caregivers
- Is your neighborhood livable? Find out with the AARP Livability Index
- Find great volunteer opportunities in your community
See the AARP home page for deals, savings tips, trivia and more