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 13 percent of the population, they represented nearly 20 percent of pedestrian fatalities in 2011. Fully one-fifth of people 65 and older do not drive, which often leaves walking as the main way 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, and Congress has legislation before it to make much-needed improvements to our streets and crosswalks.
That’s why AARP strongly endorses the Safe Streets Act of 2014. (That’s the Senate bill; in the House of Representatives, it’s the Safe Streets Act of 2013.) This bipartisan legislation will 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 Safe Streets Act requires no or minimal additional spending on new roadways or improvement projects. The legislation directs 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 is found appropriate for each community. Planners would have two years to adopt “Complete Streets” policies that ensure 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.
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 600 in 27 states; Washington, D.C.; and Puerto Rico. AARP has been an active advocate for many of these state and local policies.
Citizens recognize the need for safe streets and are taking action. In New York City, for example, where a person is killed by a car every 33 hours — more often than by a gun — a rally for safer streets was held recently.
But safer streets aren’t just an issue for urban areas. Residents of small towns are more likely to be killed or injured by a car than residents of urban areas. In 2011, 55 percent of all traffic fatalities — including deaths among motorists, pedestrians and cyclists — occurred in rural areas.
We can do better.
AARP supports the Safe Streets Act because it would ensure that federal transportation infrastructure investments provide safe travel for all. The legislation would help ensure that all users are safe, scarce transportation dollars are spent wisely, and 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 the Safe Streets Act — and ask your members of Congress to support it, too.
Also of Interest
- The Complete Streets Movement
- Portland Takes Age-Friendly Action
- Find great volunteer opportunities in your community
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