With sunlight in increasingly short supply during this time of year, we are reminded of how important safe and well-designed streets and crosswalks are to our community. Tragically, one-fifth of children under age 14 killed in traffic crashes in 2013 were pedestrians. Older adults are also extremely vulnerable, making up nearly 20 percent of pedestrian fatalities of all ages. It’s no surprise that nearly half of those AARP surveyed age 50 and older said they could not safely cross the main streets in their neighborhoods.
Sadly, pedestrian fatalities are increasing in this country and it is unacceptable that a pedestrian is killed every two hours. While adults 65 or older made up just 9 percent of Alaska’s population they represented 22 percent of the state’s pedestrian fatalities in the past ten years, making our state the 15th worst for pedestrian safety in the country.
Some in Congress are working hard to find solutions. The Senate recently passed legislation that includes bipartisan, pedestrian safety improvements sponsored by Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Dean Heller (R-NV). The amendment advances us toward ensuring that transportation investments provide safe travel for pedestrians and everyone who uses the road, regardless of their age or ability.
Senator Lisa Murkowski is a member of the conference committee that will play a vital role as the House and Senate comes to final agreement on a transportation bill. She can help reduce these tragic fatalities by ensuring that strong pedestrian safety measures included in the Senate transportation bill remain in the final conference report with the House.
Let’s remember how important safe and well-designed streets and crosswalks are to our community. Crossing the street shouldn’t mean crossing your fingers.
AARP Alaska State President