In 2006 there were 4,784 recorded pedestrian fatalities in the United States, representing 11 percent of all U.S. traffic deaths (NHTSA, 2007). In urban areas, pedestrians often comprise 25 percent or more of the traffic deaths.
In October of 1998, the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) sponsored a study aimed at reducing deaths and injuries to pedestrians in large, urban environments. The purpose of this study was to identify and implement a comprehensive countermeasure program that could reduce deaths and injuries among pedestrians by targeting countermeasures toward specific high-crash locations and zones.
With 1700–1800 pedestrian crashes per year, Miami-Dade County, Florida, was chosen as the focal point of the study due to its large number of crashes, the age and ethnic diversity of its population, as well as the willingness of State and county officials to participate in the study and elevate pedestrian safety to a higher priority.
From October 1998 to September 2007, the UNC Highway Safety Research Center, with input from Dunlap and Associates and the Miami-Dade Metropolitan Planning Association, conducted research in the area. Using pedestrian crash data from 1996–2001, four zones were identified within the County as having abnormally high pedestrian crash experiences — Liberty City, Little Haiti, Little Havana and South Beach. Based on locational crash characteristics, as well as pedestrian (age, ethnicity) factors, a total of 16 different types of education, enforcement, and engineering treatments were selected and targeted to reduce pedestrian crashes specifically in the four zones, and also countywide.
A before-after study was used with three separate control groups to evaluate the effects of the comprehensive pedestrian safety program on pedestrian crashes. A three-year "after" period was used (2002–2004). Multivariate intervention auto-regressive integrated moving average (ARIMA) time series analysis was used, along with non-parametric (Mann-Whitney U-tests) to test for statistically significant differences in pedestrian crash experiences.
Results showed that, at the peak of the program effects in 2003 and 2004, the pedestrian safety program reduced countywide pedestrian crash rates by between 8.5 percent and 13.3 percent, depending on which control group was used — that translates to approximately 180 fewer crashes annually in Miami-Dade County, or 360 pedestrian crashes reduced in 2003 and 2004 combined. Countywide, the greatest crash reductions were found among children and adult pedestrians under age 65, likely as a result of the program's intense focus on these groups. After the pedestrian safety program implementation, crashes involving child pedestrians decreased by 32.6 percent in the four targeted zones combined, and decreased by 22.1 percent countywide. Educational and other measures to reduce crashes involving older pedestrians showed no effect.
As program implementation was seen as a success in this project, the project was also successful at institutionalizing a greater emphasis on pedestrian safety in Miami-Dade County. Since the study, the pedestrian safety program has been sustained by full-time personnel, and ongoing and future countermeasure efforts are likely.
A final report on the Miami-Dade study will be released in 2008.
The University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center
730 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, Suite 300 | Campus Box 3430 | Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3430
Phone: 919.962.2203 | Fax: 919.962.8710