Over Thanksgiving an accident occurred in Denver's 16th Street Mall area. At approximately 2:30 p.m., a driver was exiting a parking garage area and passed through a gate and struck three pedestrians. John White, on behalf of the Denver Police Department, said there was no drug or alcohol usage involved. Investigators said that the injuries incurred were not life-threatening. The 16th Street Mall district is an extremely popular area that offers free shuttle bus rides, has horse-drawn carriages and pedi-cabs. There are over 40 cafes in the region, many shops, and a movie theatre as well. The local authorities and city departments are continuing to determine better ways of increasing traffic safety in the area.
Pedestrian Accident Data
Across the country in 2015, there were reportedly over 5,300 pedestrians killed in traffic accidents. Pedestrians represented one of the few groups that saw an increase in fatalities. Pedestrians are particularly vulnerable to serious injury, as they are unprotected when hit by a car. Recent data in the Denver area shows that roughly 1,300 such crashes occur annually, which result in roughly 500 injuries and about 100 deaths. The majority of pedestrian accidents seem to occur at intersections. Approximately 30% of these types of collisions occur at night and about 8% involve drugs and/or alcohol.
Federal & Colorado Based Safety Programs
The Federal Highway Administration cites several critical aspects to improving pedestrian safety in an area. Improvements in engineering can be made through plans and new policies, which then require some degree of enforcement. Education and encouragement which heightens awareness geared to both pedestrians and motorists is important. The Denver Regional Council of Governments issues a Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. Recently they reduced the estimated speed that pedestrians are walking from 4.0 feet per second to 3.5. The purpose is for traffic control devices to allow a little extra time for pedestrians to cross. They have made improvements lately including;
- Placing crossings in the middle of blocks to encourage pedestrian usage
- Installing “refuge islands” in the road medians
- Adding a three second delay at crossings before motorists see a green light
The Colorado Department of Transportation has been furthering their Safe Routes to School initiative. This program has directed funding to education about traffic-related safety and new improvements in sidewalks, signs, signals and other such infrastructure that better allows children to travel to school safely when walking or bicycling. This project coincides with their Share the Road program, an effort to educate motorists on the best practices when encountering pedestrians and bicyclists.
Pedestrian Best Safety Practices
- Always use marked crosswalks and try to avoid crossing in areas with parked vehicles and other visual obstructions
- Pay attention to the signals for pedestrians and watch for turning traffic when crossing at all times
- A flashing hand signal means to clear the crosswalk quickly; a red hand is a do not cross indicator
- Use traffic signal buttons when equipped at the intersection to signal your desire to cross
- When encountering motorists try to make eye contact to be sure they see you
- Never assume that a driver sees you and wear bright or reflective apparel after dark
- Always use extra caution when approaching tracks for light rail
- In the 16th Street Mall in Denver, pay close attention to buses and bus lanes which are much more prevalent
Driver Best Safety Practices
- Always come to a complete stop when pedestrians are crossing
- Maintain your vision on the roadway ahead. Distracted driving is a major problem stemming from drivers using mobile electronic devices, applying makeup, eating etc.
- Pedestrian usually have the right-of-way at intersections. Either way, motorists have an obligation to proceed with care and caution when among pedestrians.
- Be sure you do not stop in the crosswalk, which impedes the path for pedestrians to cross
- School zones are among the most potentially dangerous areas for motorist/pedestrian collisions
- When approaching a school bus, remember that their yellow flashing lights signal their intent to load or unload passengers
- Traffic moving in both directions must stop during school bus passenger entry and exit stops
- Maintain a minimum of 10 feet of distance from school buses