Public Safety

Report: Minors made up 12 percent of Iowa pedestrian fatalities from 2014-2016

Iowa has fourth lowest fatality rate

A sign explains the signals at a pedestrian hybrid beacon at a crosswalk in front of Pierce Elementary School on 42nd Street NE in Cedar Rapids on Monday, Dec. 12, 2016. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
A sign explains the signals at a pedestrian hybrid beacon at a crosswalk in front of Pierce Elementary School on 42nd Street NE in Cedar Rapids on Monday, Dec. 12, 2016. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

A new report has found that, while Iowa’s pedestrian traffic fatality numbers did not change in the first half of last year, the state was just one of seven to see minors make up more than 10 percent of such deaths over a three-year span.

The Governors Highway Safety Association’s annual Spotlight on Highway Safety report, released Wednesday, showed that Iowa’s 11 pedestrian fatalities from January through June of last year represented zero change from the same span in 2016. Six other states also saw no change in pedestrian fatalities, 23 states — and Washington, D.C. — saw an increase and 20 states had a decrease, according to the report.

Iowa had the fourth lowest fatality rate per 100,000 residents — .73 — in all of 2016 and sixth lowest in the first half of 2017 with .35 fatalities per 100,000 residents.

Mitchell Schmidt / The Gazette

However, the report also found that Iowa was one of seven states to see more than 10 percent of fatalities from 2014 through 2016 involving people 15 years old or younger. The national average was about 5 percent.

In that span, eight of Iowa’s 66 pedestrian fatalities involved people younger than 16.

Iowa Department of Transportation data shows that 2015 saw a 10-year spike in statewide pedestrian fatalities with 28. Iowa averaged 22 pedestrian fatalities from 2007 — 2016.

The national report notes that some of Iowa’s larger police departments have been conducting public awareness campaigns on pedestrian safety issues, while communities have been focusing more on flashing pedestrian crossing signs to enhance safety.

Locally, Cedar Rapids has been in the process of converting several downtown streets from one-way traffic to two-way — which City Traffic Engineer Matt Myers said has a big impact on safety.

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“When we did the conversions to two-way traffic, we also look at it as a road diet project where basically you have a driving lane in each direction on each street. That doesn’t facilitate high speeds,” Myers said. “I think that will translate long-term into pedestrian safety.”

In addition to slowing traffic with two-way lanes, ongoing intersection upgrades create safer crossings, Myers added.

The city plans to continue its two-way conversion effort this year with portions of 2nd, 4th and 5th avenues.

The association’s report notes that nationwide pedestrian fatalities increased by 27 percent from 2007 to 2016, while all other traffic deaths decreased by 14 percent.

In the first half of 2017, the country saw 2,636 pedestrian fatalities, which projects nearly 6,000 pedestrian deaths for the whole year, making for the second year in a row.

“Two consecutive years of 6,000 pedestrian deaths is a red flag for all of us in the traffic safety community. These high levels are no longer a blip but unfortunately a sustained trend,” GHSA Executive Director Jonathan Adkins said in a Wednesday news release. “We can’t afford to let this be the new normal.”

l Comments: (319) 339-3175; mitchell.schmidt@thegazette.com

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