Pedestrian Safety on Rural Highways

Federal Highway Administration

Although pedestrian fatalities have decreased by 16 percent over the past decade, the United States experienced nearly 4,749 pedestrian fatalities in 2003. The conventional wisdom has been that this is primarily an urban problem, where pedestrians are subject to numerous conflicts with vehicular traffic. The fact that 28 percent of pedestrian fatalities occur in rural areas has largely been ignored, despite the fact that pedestrian impacts in rural areas, while relatively rare, are much more likely to result in fatalities or serious injuries.

The research described in this paper sought to identify the characteristics of rural pedestrian fatalities in ten states with above-average rates of rural pedestrian fatalities. The most prominent characteristics of
rural pedestrian fatalities in these states were clear weather, hours of darkness, weekends, nonintersection locations, and level, straight roads. The project also examined all rural pedestrian accidents in New Mexico for a three-year period. Improved visibility and selected application of pedestrian amenities such as walkways, crosswalks, and warning signs appear to have the best potential for enhancing rural pedestrian safety. The excessive incidence of alcohol-involved pedestrians deserves additional attention.

Filed in: Engineering, Crashes and Safety

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