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People who live in poor neighborhoods are more likely to be killed in a pedestrian-car accident. That’s according to Governing magazine:

No published national data assess income or poverty status of those killed in traffic accidents. But according to a Governing analysis of accident location coordinates for the more than 22,000 pedestrians killed nationwide between 2008 and 2012, poorer neighborhoods have disproportionately higher rates of pedestrian deaths. In the nation’s metro areas, the bottom third of Census tracts, in terms of per capita income, recorded pedestrian fatality rates twice that of higher income tracts. The same holds true for high-poverty communities.

Why is this happening? Poor people are more likely not to own cars and have to walk places, including walking to the bus stop. Main thoroughfares are more likely to run through poor neighborhoods, as little thought was given to their quality of life when the roads were built. (For example, East Ave. is not a six-lane speedway.) Finally, despite the fact more poor people don’t have cars, cities are lagging in putting pedestrian-friendly infrastructure in their neighborhoods. This isn’t only a city issue. Many low-income people live in the suburbs, which are not known for walkability.


Source: Governing

Source: Governing


The Rochester metro area shows a pattern similar to the national data. Poor people are more likely to be killed while walking. In the Rochester metro, the death rate between 2008 and 2012 for pedestrians was 5.6 per 100,000 people. In census tracks with poverty rates above 25 percent, the five-year death rate was 9.5 per 100,000. There were 60 pedestrian deaths in this time period.

Perhaps showing that it’s more dangerous to walk in outlying areas, Monroe County’s pedestrian death rate during this period was 4.7 per 100,000. But in high poverty neighborhoods, it was 7.4. In neighborhoods where poverty was less than 15 percent, the five-year death rate was 3.9.

Here’s a map of Rochester area fatalities between 2008 and 2012:


Source: Governing

Source: Governing


What should we do with this information? It’s important to focus on road design, which includes lowering speed limits and placing crosswalks where they are needed. It’s also not acceptable to blame “jaywalkers.” They shouldn’t have to pay for a mistake with their lives.  Nearly 14 percent of all traffic fatalities in Rochester were pedestrian deaths. We’re so focused on the needs of drivers, we’ve forgotten about the needs of pedestrians, many of whom are poor.


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9 Responses to Pedestrian Deaths: Poor People at Greater Risk

  1. August 10, 2014 at 9:15 pm Lellingw responds:

    There needs to be more research based on the way pedestrians cross the street also. I am always nervous driving in “poverty” stricken neighborhoods because people walk or bike right out in traffic, they come in all directions and cars will stop and call out to people outside and have them come up to their car. A couple of weeks ago on Norton St. I saw a teen riding his bike on a sidewalk come out into an intersection and almost get hit. I was shocked that the car could stop, it wasn’t going fast, and I watched the boy come up on the sidewalk next to me. He was riding with something in his hand and doing it rather awkwardly. Then I was realized it was a very small pit bull puppy! I thought about calling the police but didn’t. That puppy was too young to be away from its mother and that boy was going to get himself and the puppy killed. I really think more information needs to be gathered on the knowledge on the differences in car, pedestrian and bicycle traffic and the attitudes towards following rules.

  2. August 11, 2014 at 11:21 am Lee Drake responds:

    How many of those deaths were on the so-called “east avenue speedway”? One? Odds are pretty good that something similar could happen on a residential street as happened on east ave in any random period of time. You continually rail against cars, in favor of bikes and pedestrians. But How does (for instance) creating view-blocking bump curbs on University increase pedestrian safety? If I can’t see a pedestrian because of a bump curb covered in someone’s idea of a garden, or a forest of retail sandwich signs chained to city property how does that “help pedestrians”.

    104, a limited access highway that pedestrians should NEVER be on had 4 in the same time period. Perhaps we should make the speed limit 24mph on 104.

    Also how many of the working poor live on east ave? It’s probably one of the higher rent areas of the city. Your facts don’t back up your story.

    • August 11, 2014 at 6:22 pm PJ Birkman responds:

      “The so-called ‘east avenue speedway'”? Who called it that? What Rachel actually said was “For example, East Ave. is NOT a six-lane speedway.” So a low number of deaths is perfectly consistent with Rachel’s point as is it’s status as a wealthier neighborhood. In fact she was explicitly contrasting East Ave with the major streets in poorer neighborhoods. You undercut some interesting and worthwhile criticisms by spending so much of your comments attacking your misreading of one parenthetical statement.

  3. August 11, 2014 at 11:39 am Lee Drake responds:

    In fact having reviewed the map casually it seems that it’s more of a deciding factor if you’re elderly than poor, or in a poor neighborhood in Rochester.

  4. August 12, 2014 at 12:24 am Orielly responds:

    Another “Poor” issue.

    As if the poor in the USA are poor through no fault of their own. People are poor for many reasons and IMO the vast majority in this country are poor as a result of their own, inactions, laziness, ignorance etc.(they don’t know education or a job is important?) Sure there are exceptions.
    More get killed by cars sure, likely they also drown more often as they didn’t think it important to learn to swim.

    I suspect they commit suicide less than other income classes and they likely don’t die on airplanes as often. But they likely get murdered more often.

    In the end … so what? When do the poor take responsibility for their own lot in life? And how long should we feel “sorry for them”?

  5. I’m not sure your ideas about road construction pan out Rachel. At least in Rochester, many major thoroughfares through the city whether in poor or middle class neighborhoods are either poorly designed or slow because of their age.

    I think a lot of it has to do with the poor walking more, Rochester’s bad streets throughout, and a lack of knowledge or respect for the laws.

  6. I can only use my own experiences to offer an opinion. Driving through inner city neighborhoods is a challenge to any driver. At any time, someone WILL walk out in front of you. Most of the time they see you, but they are either daring you to hit them or they just don’t care. I don’t know the reason. They will walk in the middle of the street or change direction in an instant. This includes people on bikes, scooters, skateboards, etc. You think the answer is to redesign streets or add crosswalks or lower the speed limit? This is pure nonsense. Is this action blamed on being poor? That is also nonsense. It is strictly a result of a disregard for laws ( rules ) and civil obedience. There is no other answer. There also is no prevention other that personal care and to use safe and lawful practices yourself. Those that disregard the laws will ultimately pay the price. You can’t save anybody from their self.

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