Slow Down to Save Lives: Preventing Pedestrian Deaths on Our Roads

pedestrians crossing sign

Slow down. I tell myself that frequently when I’m behind the wheel. That’s the first thing we have to do if we want to stop killing pedestrians. The death toll is way too high.

The average car weighs just over 4,000 pounds. As a personal injury lawyer, I have seen first-hand the devastation that results when a vehicle hits a pedestrian. In 2021, nearly 7,500 pedestrians died nationwide after being hit by vehicles, the greatest number in 40 years. In 2022, 27 pedestrians were hit and killed in Raleigh, triple the city’s annual average. The City Council lowered the speed limit in downtown Raleigh last fall in response to the spike in pedestrian deaths.

Driving slowly is the best way to help prevent pedestrian deaths. People who are hit by cars going under 25 mph are more likely to survive the collision. How fast you drive when you leave work today can make the difference between sending a pedestrian to the hospital or to the morgue. But slowing down is not the only thing we can do.

We need to make our towns and cities safe for walking. When we design or renovate streets and sidewalks, we need to prioritize the safety of walkers and bikers as much as the safety of drivers and cars.

That’s what Chapel Hill’s town leaders are doing with the Vision Zero Commitment, a commitment to eliminate traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2031. You might recall I posted about Vision Zero last year when Hoboken, N.J. was in the news for having achieved the goal for several years running. When making transportation decisions, Chapel Hill is prioritizing the safety of all road users, including those who aren’t cocooned in thousands of pounds of steel.

Slow down. Make a point of looking for walkers and cyclists when you’re driving. These are two pretty easy ways to save lives. All we need to do is decide to do them.