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Neighbors Growing Together | Jul 18, 2018

Pedestrian deaths fall slightly after previous year’s spike

Aug 04, 2017

By Erin Murphy, Lee Des Moines Bureau


DES MOINES — After spiking to a 20-year high in 2015, Iowa pedestrian deaths dropped slightly in 2016, according to data from the state transportation department.

An incorrect figure for 2016 was provided by the Iowa Department of Transportation in error and published in a story on June 25.

In Iowa, pedestrian deaths as a result of vehicle accidents have been trending downward since the late 1980s, according to DOT data.

But that trend reversed for one year in 2015, when there were 28 pedestrian deaths in the state, the most since 1995.

That number began to fall again in 2016, when there were 23 pedestrian deaths in Iowa, according to the department.

“That number is way higher than any of us would ever want,” said Steve Gent, with the Iowa DOT. “Our goal is always zero.”

Gent said pedestrian deaths comprise 7 percent of all traffic fatalities in Iowa, which he said he thinks is too high a share of overall road deaths.

“That’s a really high number considering all the cars and trucks and SUVs and motorcycles, all the other users of the transportation system,” he said. “That’s a very significant number, and it goes to show how vulnerable pedestrians are in the road environment.”

Gent said one challenge to reducing pedestrian deaths is that they typically do not occur in the same area from year to year. Because they are more random, pedestrian deaths cannot be reduced by making changes at specific areas of the state’s road system. Instead, systemic changes must be made in order to bring the number of deaths down, Gent said.

“The locations are random, generally, from year to year. So it’s not an easy fix,” Gent said. “It’s more systemic vs. an actual hotspot.”

Pedestrian deaths are worse nationally, where the figures have been on the rise in the past few years.

After many years of decline, pedestrian deaths increased 25 percent from 2010 to 2015, according to figures from the national Governors Highway Safety Association. And pedestrian deaths are becoming a larger percentage of overall traffic fatalities, from 11 percent in 2007 to 15 percent in 2015, according to the association.

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