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Bipartisan bill aims to make it safer for pedestrians to cross dangerous streets

Why pedestrian deaths are rising in the U.S.
Why pedestrian deaths are rising in the U.S. 04:43

A bill that aims to make it safer to cross busy, dangerous roads and avert rising pedestrian deaths and injuries by requiring states invest in making streets safer is being introduced in Congress on Tuesday by two Ohio lawmakers.

The Save Our Pedestrians Act, introduced by Ohio Reps. Mike Carey, a Republican, and Emilia Sykes, a Democrat, would require that 5% of all funding given to states through the Highway Safety Improvement Program be used for projects aimed at making high-risk pedestrian crossings safer, setting aside about $100 million annually.

"As more pedestrians are injured and killed while walking in crosswalks and on streets without sidewalks, the need to find common-sense solutions to allow people to move around our neighborhoods without fear is critical to the quality of life in our communities," Sykes said in a statement to CBS News. She said the legislation would "require states to set aside federal dollars to make our roads safer for everyone — from pedestrians to motorists."

The number of pedestrians killed on America's roads surged 77% between 2010 and 2021, as all other traffic deaths rose by 25%, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. The group estimates more than 7,500 pedestrians were killed in crashes in 2022, the highest number over 40 years, since 1981. That's an average of 20 people per day. The figures for 2023 are not yet available.

Some proposed solutions include focusing on improving the safety of pedestrian crossings that are in the middle of the block on multi-lane roads, installing medians between traffic lanes, adding roundabouts to slow traffic, adding protected bike lanes and constructing sidewalks that offer additional space between the road and the walking path. Under the legislation, individual states would be free to work with local governments to find solutions that fit the issues raised by their communities. 

The legislation proposed by the two lawmakers addresses creating safer conditions for pedestrians, but it does not take into account the types of vehicles that are increasingly responsible for injuries and deaths. Last November, a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that vans and SUVs with hood heights of 40" or higher were 45% more likely to cause fatal pedestrian accidents, and U.S. cars over the past 30 years have grown bigger, taller and heavier.

The legislation was prompted by a 2023 CBS News "Sunday Morning" report on the surge of pedestrian deaths on American roads and the heartbreaking story of one accident that decimated a family.  

In July 2013, 27-year-old Samara Banks, her four sons and her sister were walking home from a family get-together on Roosevelt Boulevard in Philadelphia.

"These two cars came up, and they just hit them so hard," Banks' aunt, Latanya Byrd, told CBS News correspondent Jim Axelrod.

They were struck by two cars that were street racing at nearly 40 mph over the speed limit. The crash killed Banks and three of her young sons.

"It's just crazy, this road," Byrd said. "And no matter how many times people die on this Roosevelt Boulevard … the drivers, they don't pay attention to the speed."

Byrd also blamed the design of the 12-lane road.

"Our legislation will make our roadways safer for children and families by redesigning crosswalks, roundabouts, sidewalks, and other infrastructure," says Carey.

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