Pedestrian deaths continue to increase across the U.S, and South Carolina is no stranger to the trend. From 2003 through 2012, 1,020 persons died while walking in South Carolina. Nationally during the same time period, 47,025 pedestrians died, which represented 12.3 percent of all traffic deaths. But by the time 2012 rolled around, 15 percent of all deaths were pedestrians in that year alone.
In our own area in 2017, a number of pedestrian deaths occurred:
- At one point during 2017, five pedestrians died within a five-mile radius of Greenville over a 14-day time span.
- Here in Columbia, a woman was struck and killed on Millwood Avenue on November 1, 2017.
- In Greenville on Christmas Eve, 2017, a man attempting to cross U.S. Highway 276 was killed.
Between 2005 and 2014, South Carolina was ranked seventh for pedestrian deaths. While the national Pedestrian Safety Index (PSI) was 52.5, South Carolina’s was 106.5—more than double the national number. Florida had the dubious distinction of being first in danger to pedestrians, with a PSI of 177.
How Can We Keep Pedestrian Deaths from Rising?
Technology companies have come up with a number of innovative solutions that appear to reduce pedestrian fatalities in cities as far-flung as New Delhi, India. Optical illusions that make drivers think a child or an obstacle is in the roadway serves to slow them down. The tech advances, which range from striped lines that resemble blocks to designs that look like a child chasing a ball, sometimes stop working as they become familiar to drivers. But they do work. Some of the new ways that cities are slowing down those who drive too fast have happened in the following locations:
- New Delhi, India, and Isafjordur, Iceland. 3-D crosswalks that resemble blocks in the road dropped driver speeds by 15 percent in New Delhi; the city now has 20 of these optical illusion crosswalks. In Iceland, statistics are not available, but local officials believe that drivers have slowed down using 3-D crosswalks.
- London, England. In late 2014, road markings known as 2-D road cushions resembling speed bumps were first tested. A spokesman for Transport for London, Danny Keillor, commented that “average speeds reduced by 3 m.p.h. nine months after installation.” Because of these positive results, 45 road cushions are now installed across the roads managed by Transport for London.
- West Vancouver, Canada. 3-D decals were installed on a road near a school with the aim of slowing down drivers. “Pavement Patty” resembles a girl chasing a ball into the street. The decal was left in place for only a short while in 2010, and driver behavior was not measured.
In the United States, trial runs have been limited. In Chicago during 2012, lightning-bolt-shaped 3-D markings were added in front of one pair of crosswalks, with results much the same as in other locations. While initial reactions resulted in driver slowdowns, the effect wore off somewhat over time. However, at present, 3-D markings violate existing roadway standards maintained by the Federal Highway Administration (FHA). The agency does have license to grant approval for new techniques such as the ones described.
Are the Old Ways Better?
Some proven measures that combat the trend in fatalities are, compared to optical illusions, low-tech. These include rumble strips, pedestrian crossing islands, pedestrian beacons, and traffic roundabouts. In all, 20 different safety measures have been identified since 2008 by the FHA. However, local and state governments must implement safety measures if we are to stop the increase in pedestrian fatalities. The eventual answer will likely lie in a combination of old-fashioned roadway measures combined with the newer optical illusions.