LAS VEGAS -- Southern Nevada's reputation as a dangerous place for pedestrians earned unflattering attention last year when a transportation safety coalition ranked the Las Vegas metro area among the nation's deadliest for foot traffic.
When Transportation for America of Washington, D.C., issued the report "Dangerous By Design" last May, Las Vegas landed sixth on the most dangerous list with a pedestrian danger index of 135.2. Only four large Florida metros and Riverside, Calif., ranked higher on the index, which measures the rate of pedestrian deaths relative to the amount of walking in a given area.
The coalition, representing housing, business, environmental, transportation and public health groups, reported that 421 pedestrians died in Las Vegas from 2000 through 2009. That amounted to 2.5 deaths per 100,000 residents on average each year.
Las Vegas also had the nation's 10th highest percentage of traffic deaths from 2000 through 2009 that claimed pedestrians as victims. Those 421 pedestrians who died represented 19.1 percent of the 2,200 traffic victims who lost their lives. Nationally pedestrians made up slightly less than 12 percent of all traffic fatalities.
Among states Nevada ranked fifth with 4.53 pedestrians fatalities per 100,000 residents among those 65 and older from 2000 through 2007. The national average was 2.92 per 100,000. Nevada also had the nation's eighth highest pedestrian danger index at 105.3 over the past decade. Sun Belt states led by Florida dominated the index rankings.
"Our nation's transportation network is based on a policy that has not been significantly updated since the 1950s," the report stated. "We're calling for more responsible investment of our federal tax dollars to create a safer, cleaner, smarter transportation system that works for everyone."
More than 47,700 pedestrians lost their lives nationwide from 2000 through 2009, and more than 688,000 others were injured.
"But state departments of transportation have largely ignored pedestrian safety from a budgetary perspective, allocating only 1.5 percent of available federal funds to projects that retrofit dangerous roads or create safe alternatives," the report stated.
The coalition reported that while overall traffic fatalities declined by 27 percent over the past decade, pedestrian deaths fell by only 14 percent. The difference, according to the report, is that greater emphasis has been placed on vehicle design, seat belt and child booster seat use, and campaigns to eliminate drunk driving and driving while distracted.
"Unfortunately, pedestrian fatalities have not received the same kind of attention or response," the report stated.
Transportation for America recommended that Congress retain dedicated federal funding for the safety of people on foot and on bicycles, adopt a "national complete streets" policy that takes into account the needs of all transportation users, and fill gaps by supporting completion of sidewalk, bike path and trail networks.
The coalition also advocated that Congress hold states accountable for creating communities that are safe for walking.