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FHWA Home / Safety / Pedestrian & Bicycle / Pedestrian Safety in Communities

Frequently asked questions

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There are a number of questions that frequently arise when discussing pedestrian transportation and safety issues. This section is intended to help you become more knowledgeable about these issues.

What are the functions of streets?

People have a right to safe streets that are able to serve multiple purposes, including:

How does driver speed relate to pedestrian-motorist collisions?

Nationally, there are around 5,000 pedestrian fatalities and about 64,000 injuries every year. These fatalities occur in urban, suburban, and rural areas and affect people of all age, race/ethnicity, and physical ability. There are a number of contributing factors to each pedestrian collision, but one of the most important issues related to pedestrian injuries and deaths is driver speed. The faster a driver is traveling, the more difficult it is to stop, and the greater the chance of a pedestrian's death if he or she is hit by the vehicle (see images below).

Bar Graph of Minimum Stopping Distance vs. Speed. Graph illustrates as speeds increase, thinking distances increase at a steady rate while stopping distances increase dramatically from 20ft thinking and 20ft stopping at 20 MPH to 70ft thinking and 245ft stopping at 70 MPH.

Source: Traffic Safety Facts: Pedestrians, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, National Center for Statistics and Analysis, Washington, D.C., 2006.

Bar Graph of Shortest Stopping Distances. Graph illustrates that a pedestrians' chance of death if hit by a motor vehicle dramatically increases from 15% at 20 MPH to 85% at 40 MPH.

Source: Killing Speed and Saving Lives, United Kingdom Department of Transportation, London, 1987.

Meeting the needs of more vulnerable people, such as children and pedestrians with disabilities, can make the walking environment safer for everyone.

Do different people have different safety needs?

Yes, pedestrians have various levels of physical and mental abilities that affect their ability to walk safely in certain conditions. For example:

Residents can influence roadway decisions by working with local agencies to review plans, identify concerns, and educate others on pedestrian needs.

How can I influence decisions to make the roadways in my community safer for pedestrians?

You can influence your transportation providers and decision-makers by advocating for change. Advocating for change is no small task for one person to do alone; you will be more successful if you work with others and have a strong network of support. Advocates promote bicycling and walking in a wide variety of ways, including:

Who is my state highway traffic safety representative and what do they do?

The Governor's Highway Safety Association (GHSA) is an association of state-level highway traffic safety representatives that work to change the behavior of drivers and other road users (including pedestrians and bicyclists) to reduce motor vehicle-related deaths and injuries. You can find your state highway safety office online at http://www.naghsr.org/html/links/highwaysafetywebsites.html or call the GHSA at 202-789-0942.

Who is my state bicycle and pedestrian coordinator and what do they do?

Your state bicycle and pedestrian coordinator is a good person to contact for local information about pedestrian safety statistics and ongoing state and local pedestrian programs (or links to others with this information). Your representative should be able to answer questions related to pedestrian issues and direct you to appropriate contacts in your state or community. Find your state pedestrian and bicycle coordinator by visiting the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Web site (http://cms.transportation.org/?siteid=59&pageid=852) or by calling the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center assistance line at 877-925-5245. Some cities and counties also have a local pedestrian and bicycle coordinator. Find out by contacting your local department of transportation (DOT) or public works.

For More Information:

For other frequently asked questions, visit the Iowa State University Center for Transportation Research and Education Web site at http://www.ctre.iastate.edu/pubs/tsinfo/ (or call 515-294-8103). The Center has a Traffic and Safety Informational Series that provides clear, concise, and consistent answers to 25 common traffic and safety questions.


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Page last modified on January 31, 2013.
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