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The 10 most dangerous cities for walking

An advocacy group's Pedestrian Danger Index ranks cities and states. Wide streets and old people are a deadly mix.

By QuinStreet May 27, 2014 2:30PM

This post comes from Des Toups at partner site on MSN MoneyWatch your step, Florida.

A police officer directs a pedestrian in Charlotte, NC
 © STAN HONDA/AFP/GettyImages

Pedestrians crossing your wide, sunbaked streets are more likely to be struck and killed by a car than anywhere else in the country, according to the newly released 2014 edition of "Dangerous by Design."

The advocacy group Smart Growth America calculated the Pedestrian Danger Index for 51 major metro areas and for each state. Places where many people walk have more fatalities, so the index adjusts the number killed by the percentage of residents who walk to work, according to Census data.

Florida is the riskiest state for pedestrians, and the four deadliest cities for pedestrians lie within its borders: Orlando, Tampa-St. Petersburg, Jacksonville and Miami.

Rounding out the worst 10 cities are Memphis; Birmingham, Alabama; Houston; Atlanta; Phoenix; and Charlotte, North Carolina. The 10 most dangerous states are:

  1. Florida
  2. Alabama
  3. Louisiana
  4. South Carolina
  5. Georgia
  6. Delaware
  7. Mississippi
  8. Arizona
  9. North Carolina
  10. Texas
For the complete rankings of cities and states, see "The deadliest places for pedestrians."

About 4,700 pedestrians are killed each year in the U.S., according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data. While the total number of auto-related fatalities has fallen by a third since 2003, Smart Growth America notes, the number of pedestrian fatalities has risen in the five most recent years for which data are available.

"We are allowing an epidemic of pedestrian fatalities, brought on by streets designed for speed and not safety, to take nearly 5,000 lives a year," says Roger Millar, director of the National Complete Streets Coalition at Smart Growth America.

Given Sun Belt states' rankings, it's not surprising that older Americans are the most vulnerable. Pedestrians age 65 and over make up 12.6 percent of the population and almost 21 percent of pedestrian fatalities. Children under 16 face the lowest risk, something Smart Growth America attributes at least in part to declining physical activity. Fatalities in that age group have fallen by 70 percent since 1984.

How to make streets safer

The group backs a slate of funding and policy changes for federally funded roads that, at street level, result in the kinds of changes you might expect, such as lower speed limits and bike lanes, but also could include:

  • Extended curbs to shorten crossing distances
  • Pedestrian countdown signals
  • Refuge islands on wider streets
  • Midblock crossings
  • Improved lighting

Florida, for its part, has adopted a statewide bicyclist and pedestrian safety plan since the first Dangerous by Design report singled it out as the most hazardous state in America in 2011.

Orlando, for example, aggressively pursued drivers who fail to yield to pedestrians, issuing more than 4,600 tickets and warnings from June 2012 to June 2013. A conviction brings a $164 fine – and three points on the driver’s motor vehicle record, which could lead to an increase in car insurance rates as well. The city says the percentage of drivers who yield at crosswalks has risen from 12 percent to 48 percent.

An additional 67,000 pedestrians are injured in a typical year, NHTSA data show. Severe injury is very likely; 36 percent of pedestrians admitted to hospitals from 2008 to 2010 suffered a traumatic brain injury, says the New York State Department of Health. On average, their treatment cost $48,000.

Are you covered? You'd better be

A driver who injures a pedestrian is typically covered through his or her liability insurance policy. However, in most states, the legal minimum required is far below the amounts required to pay for a typical hospital stay. (In several states the required minimum is $15,000. You can find information for all states in "Understanding minimum insurance requirements.") Any assets you own, such as a house or savings, could be tapped to pay for what insurance doesn't cover.

On the flip side, if you're walking and get hit by a driver who has no insurance, or very low liability limits, you can file a claim against your own uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage.

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May 27, 2014 8:19PM
I see they kept Las Vegas off the list. Don't want to tell the world how many tourists get squashed there.
May 27, 2014 11:25PM
I'll take my chances in Orlando over Detroit anyday.
May 27, 2014 3:59PM
May 27, 2014 9:09PM
Forgot San Francisco, the "Hit and Run Capital"!!!!!!!
May 27, 2014 8:57PM
Have any of these people ever walked in Chicago
May 27, 2014 10:29PM
I live in North Carolina near the coast and people don't even look before stepping into the street. In fact they look in the other direction as if they don't notice that there is a car on;y 2 feet from them before they step off the curb. They need to start ticketing the people that think they can just step out into traffic woth out even looking.
May 27, 2014 11:27PM
Could this be because 4 months out of the year the northern states are inside because of cold weather! Dahhh
May 27, 2014 10:38PM

Years ago it was called JAYWALKING, and pedestrians could receive a ticket for not crossing at intersection crosswalks.

If you're stupid enough to run in front of a speeding car, train or truck, you deserve to get run over.

It's like sticking a loaded gun in your mouth and playing Russian Roulette.

Once or twice you may get lucky, but if you do it all the time, your number will soon come up...

May 27, 2014 9:46PM
The problem in Florida is the slow moving blind elderly population that migrate to our wonderful state when it gets cold elsewhere. I would love to see what time of year the most pedestrians get run over. I am quite sure even parking lot accidents occur much more often during SNOWBIRD season. I will be old myself one day, and I guarantee I wont be crossing busy intersections or driving a car big enough for a family of five to live in, to the grocery store. The old adage still holds true. Look both ways, listen, and walk quickly !!! 
May 27, 2014 8:39PM
Rumor has it that in AZ they aim for ya.       Just kidding.

 Speed limits on the streets of PHX  average 40-50 MPH   You can come up on someone pretty quick at that speed

May 27, 2014 9:03PM
The internet loves to hate Florida.  The way we are portrayed in the media you would think the life expectancy here can't be more than about 30 years between the hurricanes, the pythons, the killer bees, the terrible mosquito-borne illnesses (it seems we have to worry about the introduction of a different scary tropical illness every year-the last one I remember was dengue fever, this year it's something else), the lightning, the gators in people's yards (I've never seen a gator anywhere it didn't belong by the way and I've lived here for a few decades-it's not unusual to see them sunning themselves on the golf course if it's near water or really near any body of fresh water-you learn to assume that ANY fresh water may have a gator in it and you just don't do stupid stuff like swimming in gator infested waters or letting your dog go bark at a gator or letting your kids walk near them), the bear attacks, and now the pedestrian accidents. 

 I hate that bad things happen to people, but the reality is that most people here just go about their daily business like they do everywhere else.  I think the chances are much more likely that I will have a car wreck on I 95 than that any of those other things will happen.  In fact, I've ALREADY had a car wreck on I 95!   We have been affected by a number of hurricanes as well, but even the one that hit us directly didn't destroy our house or the buildings and houses around us, though it did do a lot of damage.  So people weren't having to rebuild; they were having to make repairs-and they were still able to live in their houses for the most part.  The store around the corner which lost its roof was still open-it didn't even close when rain a week after the hurricane brought the whole ceiling down inside!  While most people seem to picture total destruction and having to completely rebuild when they think of being hit by a hurricane, a lot of hurricanes don't completely destroy people's houses unless those houses are caught in the storm surge or in flooding-instead they may do a lot of roof damage and damage to powerlines and to other infrastructure, just over a REALLY large area and that gets really expensive. 

Sorry to go so far off track, but the point is that these articles have a real tendency to make it sound like these places are so much more dangerous than anywhere else when people who live in those places can tell you that it really isn't at all like the article makes it out to be.  I won't pretend that pedestrians never get hit here because they do.  Some people don't drive anymore, and they don't always follow common precautions to look for cars-on the flip side you have drivers who think they own the road and THEY don't always watch for pedestrians or yield when they are supposed to.  At the same time you also have the media hyping statistics for a story.
May 27, 2014 8:30PM

Proud to be a Floridian?  We're number ONE!  pedestrians and bicyclist deaths.

May 27, 2014 9:26PM

Just looked through the comments posted here.

How come there are always so many dumb and ignorant comments posted at

May 27, 2014 9:41PM
Once again, many commenters can not stay on topic which in this case is pedestrain safety.
May 27, 2014 8:42PM
Now is the time to open up,  "  Learn how to Walk  " them 10 states..
May 28, 2014 1:42AM

Most of the accidents are the pedestrians own fault. Most folks will say that the pedestrian HAS the right of way..WRONG.

The law states that drivers a supposed to "Yield the right of way to pedestrians...You should never assume you HAVE it."

Just use common sense and always watch for traffic.

Remember, when you think the vehicle is going to yield, you are assuming:

1. They see you

2. The vehicle is mechanically sound.

3. The driver is not distracted

4. The driver isn't impaired

5. The driver has normal reflexes

All you stand to lose is YOUR LIFE!!!!!!!!!

May 27, 2014 9:27PM
I have a feeling that these statistics have more to do with the behavior of the pedestrians than they do with the behavior of the drivers. I’m from Southern California myself but I did spend a few years in South Carolina (number 4 on the list) and I was often surprised by the way certain people would just casually wander across major roads and into traffic. In fact I was once almost in an accident because a guy was just walking down the middle of a major road. The guy in the first car stopped before hitting the pedestrian but the guy behind him (and in front of me) couldn’t stop in time and rear ended the other guy. Of course pedestrians here in California cross where they shouldn’t as well, although usually not on major high speed roads. I especially noticed this behavior when living in Santa Barbara and the offenders were always teens or twenty something’s who looked like total losers but who obviously thought they were tough guys. They would just casually walk out into traffic and take their sweet @ss time crossing the street and making all the cars stop for them. These guys never bother to hurry themselves along even when cars are coming and in fact they never even look in the direction of traffic, as if showing concern for oncoming cars and being alert would somehow not be very macho. And you can tell that they actually get off on making drivers slow down or stop in the middle of the road for them. Its some kind of power trip for these losers. I’ve been tempted on more than one occasion to not slow down at all and just wiz by them at full speed to teach them a lesson but unfortunately my responsible nature always keeps me from doing so. Still I would probably laugh if one of these guys got hit by a car. 
May 27, 2014 10:25PM
Virginia Beach, Virginia is where the sidewalk ends.
May 27, 2014 11:24PM
I've spent a lot of time in South Florida over the last forty years, and while it is one of the worst places to drive on the planet, primarily due to the fact that most people in Florida are from someplace other than Florida, and that is reflected in their driving styles.  It's not uncommon to encounter someone cruising the turnpike in Fort Lauderdale who six months earlier never drove anything more sophisticated than a donkey or a yak.  It is also the one place where pedestrians will saunter along without a care in the world in the middle of a busy highway during rush hour traffic.  I don't know if it's the sun, cocaine, lead paint, or mercury in the drinking water that is to blame, but not hitting a pedestrian in Florida requires extreme attentiveness and more than a little luck.
May 28, 2014 7:36AM
The 10 most dangerous cities for walking will always be the 10 cities with the most blacks. Several years ago my area was wonderful. Crimes of any type were extremely rare and a lot of people took old fashioned sidewalk strolls in the evening. It was mostly White with a few Hispanics. Then the government suddenly bought up every yuppie apartment in the area and dumped a large number of Blacks into the now "free" apartments. Then came the fast food places and liquor stores to service every $hlthole apartment building. Now no Whites are ever seen on the sidewalks and most have sold and moved away. Around the world, Brazil, Europe, North America, where ever a lot of Blacks are found in a concentrated area, that area will always be dangerous and others will move away.
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