Pedestrian Safety On Rural Highways

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FHWA-SA-04-008Technical ReportSeptember 2004Pedestrian Safetyon Rural Highways

Technical Report Documentation Page1. Report No.2. Government Accession No.3. Recipient's Catalog No.FHWA-SA-04-0084. Title and Subtitle5. Report Date (Update)Pedestrian Safety on Rural HighwaysSeptember 20046. Performing Organization Code7. Written By8. Performing Organization Report No.J. W. Hall, J. D. Brogan, and M. Kondreddi9. Performing Organization Name and Address (Update Report)10. Work Unit No. (TRAIS)Department of Civil Engineering, MSC01 1070University of New MexicoAlbuquerque, NM 87131-0001.11. Contract or Grant No.12. Sponsoring Agency Name and Address13. Type of Report and Period CoveredFederal Highway AdministrationOffice of Safety400 Seventh Street SWWashington, DC 2059014. Sponsoring Agency Code15. Supplementary NotesAOTR: D. Smith (HSA-30); T. Redmon (HSA-20);16. AbstractAlthough pedestrian fatalities have decreased by 16 percent over the past decade, the United Statesexperienced nearly 4,749 pedestrian fatalities in 2003. The conventional wisdom has been that this isprimarily an urban problem, where pedestrians are subject to numerous conflicts with vehicular traffic.The fact that 28 percent of pedestrian fatalities occur in rural areas has largely been ignored, despite thefact that pedestrian impacts in rural areas, while relatively rare, are much more likely to result infatalities or serious injuries.The research described in this paper sought to identify the characteristics of rural pedestrian fatalities inten states with above-average rates of rural pedestrian fatalities. The most prominent characteristics ofrural pedestrian fatalities in these states were clear weather, hours of darkness, weekends, nonintersection locations, and level, straight roads. The project also examined all rural pedestrian accidentsin New Mexico for a three-year period. Improved visibility and selected application of pedestrianamenities such as walkways, crosswalks, and warning signs appear to have the best potential forenhancing rural pedestrian safety. The excessive incidence of alcohol-involved pedestrians deservesadditional attention.17. Key Word18. Distribution StatementCrashes, FARS, New Mexico, pedestrian, ruralhighways, safetyNo restrictions. This document is available fromthe research sponsor.19. Security Classif. (of this report)UnclassifiedForm DOT F 1700.7 (8-72)20. Security Classif. (of this page)UnclassifiedReproduction of completed page authorized21. No. of Pages2922. Price

NOTICEThis document is disseminated under the sponsorship of the Department of Transportation in theinterest of information exchange. The United States Government assumes no liability for itscontents or use thereof. This report does not constitute a standard, specification, or regulation.The contents of this report reflect the findings of the authors; they do not necessarily reflect theofficial views of the research sponsor.The United States Government does not endorse products or manufacturers. Trade ormanufacturers’ names appear herein only because they are considered essential to the object ofthis document.

Table of ContentsINTRODUCTION. 1LITERATURE REVIEW. 2DATA COLLECTION . 3Querying FARS Crash Data . 3GENERAL CRASH CHARACTERISTICS . 4Characteristics of Interest to the Engineer . 6DISCUSSION. 9Recommendations . 10ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS . 12REFERENCES . 13APPENDIX A. 15Rural Pedestrian Fatality Data by State 2003 . 15Appendix B . 21Rural Pedestrian Crashes in New Mexico 1998 -2000 (Case Study). 21

INTRODUCTIONPedestrians are extremely vulnerable in crashes with the faster moving and much more massivemotor vehicles. Although pedestrians made up only 2 percent of highway crash injuries, in 2003they constituted 11 percent of the highway fatalities in the United States and 85 percent of allnon-occupant fatalities in motor vehicle crashes (1). Analysis of pedestrian crash experience canhelp identify engineering, educational and enforcement treatments. A proper understanding ofpedestrian needs and characteristics and the factors that contribute to pedestrian crashes isessential for the proper design and operation of roadways and pedestrian facilities.Despite the tremendous progress made in US highway safety, which has seen the highwayfatality rate drop from 5.5 fatalities per 100 million vehicle-miles (100 mvm) in 1966 toapproximately 1.48 in 2003, there were 4,749 pedestrians killed and approximately 70,000pedestrians injured in motor vehicle crashes in 2003. Overall, pedestrian fatality rates continue todecline compared to the previous years. There was a 13.5 percent decrease in pedestrian fatalitiesfrom 1994 to 2003. In 1994, pedestrians accounted for 13.5 percent of all motor vehiclefatalities; by 2003, the corresponding value was just over 11 percent (2). The reduction inpedestrian fatalities is even more pronounced when considering the growth in population, whichincreased from 250 million in 1994 to over 285 million in 2003 (3). It is possible, of course,that part of the decline in pedestrian fatalities may be due to a reduction in walking as a travelmode rather than an improvement in pedestrian safety, but data are not available to support thiscontention. Even though population-based fatality rates are declining, pedestrian safety remainsan important concern to the engineering community, which has the potential to enhancepedestrian safety through application of suitable design and operational standards.Most pedestrian fatalities in 2003 occurred inurban areas (72 percent), at non-intersectionlocations (79 percent), in normal weatherconditions (89 percent), and at night (65 percent)(1). The 2003 Fatality Analysis Reporting System(FARS) showed that more than two-thirds (69percent) of the 2003 pedestrian fatalities weremales. One-fourth of all children between theages of five and nine years old killed in trafficcrashes were pedestrians (4). Alcoholinvolvement for either the driver or pedestrianwas reported in 46 percent of the traffic crashesthat resulted in pedestrian fatalities. Of theFig. 1 Typical Road Profile in ruralpedestrians involved, 34 percent were intoxicated,areas – encourages high speeds with nowhereas the intoxication rate for the drivers waspedestrian facilities.13 percent; in 6 percent of the crashes, both thepedestrian and driver were intoxicated. Becausemost pedestrian activity occurs in urban areas, primary attention has been given to thedevelopment and implementation of countermeasures in urban areas such as sidewalks,crosswalks, pedestrian signs and signals. However, pedestrian fatality rates are higher in ruralareas because of higher driving speeds, which have a greater impact during a crash whencompared to crashes on urban streets.1

The research described in this paper: Identifies fatal pedestrian crash characteristics in a sample of rural statesEvaluates all rural pedestrian crashes in one stateSuggests potential safety engineering countermeasuresLITERATURE REVIEWIn general, traffic accidents are rare events; this is especially true for pedestrian impacts, whichaccount for less than 2 percent of all reported crashes. One study of urban pedestrian accidents(5) found that high-volume intersections with more than 80 multiple-vehicle crashes per yearrarely experienced pedestrian accidents, possibly because pedestrians avoided these locations.The study found that few intersections averaged more than three pedestrian impacts per year, andthe majority of these were not at the intersection but were simply referenced to the intersection(i.e., on Y Boulevard, 500 feet east of Z Street) for purposes of identifying the site. The situationbecomes more difficult to assess in rural areas, where pedestrian collisions are less frequent andfurther removed from intersections.The technical literature suggests that some pedestrian traffic safety issues can be addressed byengineering treatments, while others can be resolved only by recognizing and addressing thenon-engineering aspects of these crashes. For example, Johnson (6) found that pedestrianfatalities on Interstate highways constitute more than 10 percent of all pedestrian fatalities eventhough pedestrians would not be expected on these roads. Though the study was restricted toInterstate highways, the characteristics of pedestrian fatalities it identified may resemblepedestrian fatalities across all highway systems. Some of the most common contributing factorsfor pedestrian fatalities in the report are driver characteristics, alcohol and drugs, and lightingconditions. The safety countermeasures recommended by the study include alerting drivers tothe presence of pedestrians, assisting unintended pedestrians, roadway lighting and keepingpedestrians off of Interstate highways.Hall’s 1981 study (7) collected highway design and traffic engineering data at the sites of 95pedestrian crash sites (66 percent involving a fatality) on rural, non-Interstate, state-administeredroads in northwest New Mexico. Average daily traffic volumes at the study sites ranged from600 to 20,000 vehicles per day (vpd). The study found that motorists at 85 percent of the siteshad a daytime sight distance of at least 1000 feet to a pedestrian with an assumed height of 4feet. The good sight distance assumes less importance when considering that 80 percent of thepedestrian impacts occurred during the hours of darkness. Although pavement markings werepresent at 95 percent of the crash sites, signs warning of pedestrians were present at less than 20percent of the sites. The study also found that nearly 30 percent of the crashes involved hit-andrun motorists. Approximately 60 percent of the pedestrians had blood-alcohol levels of at least0.10 percent. The study recommended improvements on a site-by-site basis; the most commonlysuggested countermeasures were shoulder improvements, improved signing, and improvedroadway illumination at selected locations with high concentrations of nighttime pedestriancrashes.2

Ivan (8) used a probit model to evaluate the effect of roadway and area type features on injuryseverity of pedestrian crashes in rural Connecticut. His study concluded that the variables thatsignificantly influenced pedestrian injury severity were clear roadway width, vehicle type, driveralcohol involvement and pedestrian alcohol involvement. He found that different area typesexperienced significantly different injury severity levels, and concluded that pedestrian injuryseverity was low in highly developed areas, such as business districts, but was high in lowpopulation-density areas.DATA COLLECTIONThe primary data source for this study of rural pedestrian collisions was the Fatality AnalysisReporting System database administered and maintained by the National Highway Traffic SafetyAdministration (4). Agencies in each state collect and report detailed information on all fatalmotor vehicle crashes to this database. Relevant data from the states’ own source documents,including police accident reports, state vehicle registration files, state driver licensing files, statehighway department data, vital statistics, death certificates, medical examiner reports, hospitalmedical records, and emergency medical service reports, are coded on standard FARS forms. Asecond source of information used in this study was the New Mexico computerized accidentrecord database, maintained by the University of New Mexico’s Division of GovernmentResearch. Demographic and other statistical data were obtained from the websites maintained bythe United States Census Bureau (3) and others (9, 10).Querying FARS Crash DataThe FARS query system provides interactive public access to fatality data through a webinterface (4). The data for fatal pedestrian crashes was obtained by preparing on-line queries forselected variables of interest and cross-tabulating the results. The common selection parametersfor all of the studies were: Year 2003 Person Type Pedestrian or Other Pedestrian Injury Severity Fatality Roadway Function Class all seven rural roadway classes in the FARS databaseThe initial step in the data screening was to select a set of ten predominantly rural states with ameaningful occurrence of rural pedestrian fatalities. This was accomplished by using censusdata and rural land area to determine the population density in the rural areas of all states. Thisinformation was combined with rural pedestrian fatality data from FARS to determine the annualaverage ratio of rural pedestrian fatalities in a state to its rural population, expressed as fatalitiesper million population. A screening of the national FARS database detected several anomalies,such as one state that reported that all of its 122 pedestrian fatalities, (and indeed, 99.7 percent ofall its highway fatalities) occurred in rural areas, which led to its exclusion from the studysample. Other predominately rural states were dropped from consideration due to their lownumber of rural pedestrian fatalities. Table 1 shows the rural characteristics of the ten statesultimately chosen for further study.3

Table 1. Rural Characteristics of the Selected Study States, 7110150441027111214Fatalities/year/106 25With these exceptions (CO, MT, OR and WY), all the study states have rural pedestrian fatalityrates in excess of 30 per million persons living in rural areas. This is an admittedly imperfectstatistic, because some (perhaps many) pedestrians fatally injured in rural accidents may actuallylive in urban areas of the state or even in other states. Nevertheless, it is the most realistic ruralindicator that can be developed from readily available databases. The data set from these tenstates consists of 470 rural pedestrian crashes resulting in 476 pedestrian fatalities (1.01 fatalitiesper crash). As shown in Appendix A, Table A1, 10 percent of the rural crashes that resulted in apedestrian fatality also resulted in one or more non-fatal pedestrian injuries. Four of the studystates (Arizona, California, Florida, and New Mexico), have statewide pedestrian rates in excessof 2.0 fatalities per 100,000 population.GENERAL CRASH CHARACTERISTICSThe characteristics discussed in this sectionaddress some general concerns about ruralpedestrian fatalities that are relatively consistentamong the states and, in many cases, beyond thecontrol of the engineer. Approximately 18.3percent (range 7 to 30 percent among the tenstudy states; see Table A2) of the pedestrianfatalities involved hit-and-run drivers. The mostimportant consequence of this sad statistic is thatmotorist information is unavailable for one-sixthof rural pedestrian crashes. Table A2 also showsFig. 2 Typical Work zone with limitedthat school buses are associated with only 0.4worker protectionpercent (range 0 to 1.0 percent) of these fatalities,which suggests that pedestrian safety in thevicinity of rural school bus loading zones is very good. Considerable attention is being devotedto traffic safety in construction zones, and rightly so, but only 2.2 percent (see Table A2) of thesefatalities occur in construction areas. In conventional thinking, a pedestrian collision involves asingle vehicle impacting a single pedestrian. In fact, specific rural crashes in the ten study statesincluded a couple involving six or seven vehicles. Among all rural fatal pedestrian crashes in the4

study states, 86.6 percent involved a single vehicle, 7.5 percent involved two vehicles, and theremainder involved three or more motor vehicles. Table A3 shows the variation by state in thenumber of vehicles involved in rural fatal pedestrian crashes. The erroneous belief regarding asingle vehicle/single pedestrian collision also applies to the number of pedestrians involved inthese crashes. Recent nationally publicized urban pedestrian incidents have involved as many asten fatalities. For the ten states, 97.2 percent (range 89 to 100 percent; see Table A4) of thecrashes involved a single pedestrian fatality.Virtually all studies of pedestrian fatalities havefound that males are overrepresented based on theirproportion of the population. This is also true forrural pedestrian fatalities in the ten study states,where males account for over 74 percent of thefatalities. As shown in Table A5, the percent ofmale fatalities range from 45 to 82 percent.Particularly in urban areas, considerable attentionhas been devoted to pedestrian safety for schoolaged children. Based on FARS data for the tenstudy states, this appears to be less of a concern forrural pedestrian collisions. Table 2 shows the agedistribution for rural pedestrian fatalities in thestudy states. On the average in these states,Fig. 3 Typical School Signing in Ruralpedestrians under the age of 16 account for aboutAreas.8 percent of the rural fatalities, while those overthe age of 64 account for about 13 percent. There are multiple indications from previous studies(7) that alcohol involvement is underreported in rural pedestrian crashes; hit-and-run driversmake it impossible to obtain this information, and it appears that investigating officers may bereluctant to report pedestrian alcohol involvement. Indeed, investigating officers report“unknown”, “test refused”, or “blank” for alcohol involvement for 44 percent of rural fatalpedestrian collisions in the study states. In the minority of crashes where the officer cites anopinion, over 32% of crashes indicate alcohol involvement, (as shown in Table A6).TABLE 2. Ages of Fatally Injured PedestriansStateAZCACOFLLAMTNMORTXWYTOTAL 15 (%) 4 -64 (%)14.318.340.024.827.340. 65 (%)3.614.

Crash frequency is known to vary by day of the week andmonth, but the engineer can control neither.Nevertheless, Saturday (21 percent) accounts for thegreatest proportion of rural pedestrian fatalities, whileMonday (10.7 percent) has the least. The commonlyaccepted weekend period, Friday through Sunday,accounts for half of these fatalities (53 percent). Theresults by state are given in Table A7. If all monthsaccounted for equal shares, then each month wouldexperience 8.3 percent of the annual rural pedestrianfatalities. Overall, months in study state

rural pedestrian fatalities in these states were clear weather, hours of darkness, weekends, non-intersection locations, and level, straight roads. The project also examined all rural pedestrian accidents . Though the study was strong restricted /strong to Interstate highways, the characteristics of pedestrian fatalities it identified may resemble

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