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Transportation leaders grapple with high pedestrian death rates

James Morrison
Delaware is one of the most dangerous states for pedestrians


36 pedestrians died on Delaware roadways last year, which is one of the highest per capita fatality rates in the nation.  

The rate of deadly car crashes is on a downward trend, according to Richard Klepner, who tracks roadway death rates for Delaware’s Office of Highway Safety.  

“But pedestrian death rates are increasing. Why are pedestrians increasing? What’s causing this to happen? And I don’t think a lot of states or really any states have an answer to that question,” Klepner said.   

Klepner was one of many speakers at Thursday's Walkable Bikeable Delaware Summit in Dover. The summit highlighted efforts to reduce pedestrian deaths, like adding sidewalks and crosswalks, improving lighting and increasing police enforcement.

Keynote speaker Ann Marie Doherty spent the past 20 years working to reduce deaths along Queens Boulevards in New York from an average of 15 a year to 0 in 2015. There’s no silver bullet, according to Doherty. But adding pedestrian fences in medians and lengthening crosswalk signal times was a good start in Queens.   

“I think that really made a big impact, because the fatalities went down from the 20’s to 2-3 per year. So that was pretty significant,” she said.

The Delaware Department of Transportation is planning to implement many of the ideas used in Queens, like moving bus stops closer to intersections and installing median fences to discourage jaywalking.

These improvements will be targeted at the state’s most dangerous sections of road, which include portions of Dupont Highway, Kirkwood Highway and Pulaski Highway in New Castle County.

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