Dallas Remains Deadly for Pedestrians, New Study Says

North Texas remains extremely dangerous for pedestrians even as Dallas takes steps to modernize its thoroughfares, according to the 2019 version of Smart Growth America's Dangerous By Design report.

According to the study, 1,037 pedestrians died after being struck by cars in DFW between 2008 and 2017. Put another way, that's 1.49 each year for each 100,000 residents in the metro area over the same period. DFW's stats make it the 28th most dangerous metro area for pedestrians in the United States, and the fourth most dangerous in Texas, behind McAllen, San Antonio and Houston, according to Dangerous By Design's calculations, which also account for the number of people in a given metro who walk to work.

On first reading, the numbers don't sound all that bad — Hey, at least we're better than Houston! — but Dangerous By Design's two previous iterations reveal that Dallas, despite having a worse pedestrian friendly ranking in 2016 and 2014, is getting more dangerous for those on foot.

In 2014, DFW had 900 pedestrian deaths for the 10 years counted in the report, good for a rate of 1.31 pedestrian deaths per year per 100,000 in population. Two years later, those numbers remained effectively the same — 888 deaths and a rate of 1.32. Smart Growth America ranked Dallas the 12th worst metro area for pedestrians in 2014 and the 25th worst in 2016.

So more people are dying on Dallas streets, both in raw numbers and per capita, but things are getting worse quicker in places like Orlando and Daytona Beach, Florida, which landed the first two spots on the 2019 list.

Dallas' streets are dangerous for those on foot because they often feature multiple lanes of high-speed traffic without a significant buffer. While most pedestrian auto accidents happen in places where high numbers of walkers, cars and trucks come together — think the western portion of downtown Dallas — pedestrian deaths are most likely when people on foot are forced to confront vehicles moving at higher speeds.

"At 20 miles an hour, effectively no one dies, and at 40 miles an hour, 95 percent of [people struck by cars] die." — Scott Bricker

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"The speed-to-injury ratio is an exponential curve," Scott Bricker of the national pedestrian advocacy group America Walks told the Observer in 2014. "At 20 miles an hour, effectively no one dies, and at 40 miles an hour, 95 percent of [people struck by cars] die."

At intersections like the one at Ledbetter Drive and Sunnyvale Street in southern Dallas, the city's pedestrians can confront as many as eight lanes of regular traffic and two turn lanes as they attempt to cross to one of the businesses that surround the crossroads.

In 2016, the Dallas City Council adopted its complete streets plan, which the city says is intended to "build streets that are safe and comfortable for everyone: young or old, wheelchair or walker users, motorists,
bicyclists, bus and train riders alike."

Under the plan, some of Dallas' highest-use streets — like Knox Street north of downtown and Tyler and Polk streets in Oak Cliff — will have sidewalks improved, lanes removed or be made from one-way into two-way streets, all of which could make things safer for pedestrians. 
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young