Central Arkansas Pedestrian Deaths See Sharp Rise, Ranking High in National Study

Central Arkansas Pedestrian Deaths See Sharp Rise, Ranking High in National Study

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The Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway Metro Area is 10th in the ranking of deadliest metro areas for people walking in a new study by Smart Growth America.

A new report by Smart Growth America paints a concerning picture for pedestrians in the Little Rock-North Little Rock- Conway metro area. “Dangerous by Design 2024” ranks the city’s metro area as the 10th deadliest for people walking, highlighting a nationwide trend of increasing pedestrian fatalities.

Top 20 cities in pedestrian deaths per capita.

The study analyzes pedestrian deaths across the 101 largest U.S. metropolitan areas. Data shows a grim reality: 2022 saw the highest number of pedestrian deaths in 40 years, with 7,522 people struck and killed while walking.

The Smart Growth America report, “Dangerous by Design 2024,” analyzes pedestrian fatalities over five years (2018-2022) utilizing data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS). The report leverages the most recent FARS data, made available in April 2024, to focus solely on pedestrian deaths, excluding cyclist fatalities and those involving assistive devices like walkers or wheelchairs due to limitations in the federal data collection system.

Little Rock itself reflects this national trend. The report reveals a disturbing 119.35% increase in pedestrian deaths between 2017 and 2022, compared to the previous five-year period. There were 136 pedestrian fatalities during this recent timeframe, a significant jump from the 62 deaths reported earlier. Mayor Frank Scott’s office was contacted for comment, but no response was received by press time.

These statistics underscore the urgent need for improved pedestrian safety measures in Little Rock. The findings from “Dangerous by Design 2024” should serve as a call to action for city planners, traffic engineers, and advocates to work together in creating a safer walking environment for residents.

“We are on track to lead the nation in pedestrian deaths. If we were the murder capital of the nation, the whole city would be screaming about it. Instead, it appears our City Board wants to make our city less safe for people walking. Just two weeks ago, we had a board member on record demanding to remove a road diet and repeal the Complete Streets policy. They weren’t alone. It’s not just a City problem. Half of our most deadly roadways in Little Rock are State-owned. ARDOT builds highways, and they keep doing that even if it’s the road your kid crosses to walk to school. It will be wide, fast, and deadly to people walking until those in power work to protect us,” Rachel Cotner – Local Resident and Communications & Systems Manager, America Walks.

Racial Disparities and Economic Factors Deepen Pedestrian Safety Crisis

The “Dangerous by Design 2024” report exposes a troubling reality – race and economic background play a significant role in pedestrian safety. The study found Black pedestrians are disproportionately impacted, with a fatality rate twice that of white pedestrians (200% higher). The risk is even greater for Native Americans, who are three times more likely to be killed while walking (320% increase). Latino communities also face an elevated risk, with a 20% higher chance of pedestrian death.

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Pedestrian deaths by race/ethnicity.

Furthermore, the report highlights a link between income and pedestrian safety. Lower-income areas suffer from significantly higher rates of pedestrian fatalities. 30% of all pedestrian deaths occur in census tracts with an average annual income below $50,000. These findings suggest a critical need to address not just infrastructure issues but also the underlying social and economic factors that contribute to pedestrian danger in certain communities.

“The number of people hit by a vehicle and killed while walking has surged by 57% in a decade. It’s a 40-year high and has gone from bad to worse in most places. If you compare the most deadly places for pedestrians in our 2009 report, today dozens of metro areas are far more dangerous, surpassing previous tragic highs,” said Beth Osborne, Vice President of Transportation and Thriving Communities at Smart Growth America.

The troubling report on pedestrian safety identifies road design as a key factor in the rise of pedestrian deaths. The study highlights how current infrastructure often prioritizes vehicle speed over pedestrian safety. This translates to missing or widely spaced crosswalks, poorly designed intersections that make them difficult to navigate on foot, and turn lanes that encourage high speeds when entering roadways. Furthermore, the report emphasizes the lack of sidewalks in many areas where pedestrians walk regularly, leaving them with limited safe options. 

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Arkansas Cycling & Fitness.

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