WalkMassachusetts releases annual fatal pedestrian crash report alongside new tools for residents to advocate for safer streets in their own communities

WalkMassachusetts releases annual fatal pedestrian crash report alongside new tools for residents to advocate for safer streets in their own communities

BOSTON, Mass. March 29, 2024 – In 2023, one in every five (20%) fatal motor vehicle crashes in Massachusetts involved a person walking getting hit by the driver of a car. Forty cities and towns experienced at least one fatal pedestrian crash over the course of the year, with eight municipalities seeing multiple crashes. More than half (54%) of the deaths occurred in environmental justice communities. 

These insights come from Fatal Pedestrian Crashes in MA (2023) WalkMassachusetts’ third annual report tracking pedestrian deaths from motor vehicles around the Commonwealth. Along with calculating the number of pedestrian deaths, the report provides time-of-day, geographic, and other insights to inform solutions for safer streets.

“We are heartbroken each year learning the stories of people walking who lose their lives in these senseless, and largely preventable, crashes,” said Brendan Kearney, co-executive director of WalkMassachusetts. “One factor emerges again and again in these crashes: vehicle speed. Our roads are designed for people to drive too fast. We witness residents across the Commonwealth wanting to advocate for changes in the streets in their own community – and we stand ready to help.”

Older adults (people aged 65 or older) continue to be disproportionately harmed, making up 31.9% of victims while representing only 18% of the state’s population. 

“People of all ages deserve to be safe as we move within and between our communities,” said Massachusetts Healthy Aging Collaborative (MHAC) Executive Director James Fuccione. “For older adults to be active, engaged and included in community life means having infrastructure that prioritizes safety and connection to things we all find meaningful. This data is proof that there is more to be done as we collectively need to advance and quicken the progress being made.”

With over three-quarters of fatal pedestrian crashes in 2023 happening on local streets controlled by a city or town (76.8%), WalkMassachusetts is introducing a new resource to educate and empower people to create safer streets in their own communities: the Walk Audit Academy video series. This series will provide guidance on the elements of what creates a safe street and how to organize a group of friends and neighbors to take action on specific streets.

In addition, WalkMassachusetts is offering a Walk Audit Academy training program, where staff will work with a cohort of three to five groups within a community in a hands-on manner.

People can learn more about both programs here or at www.walkmass.org/waa

“Las auditorías peatonales y los días de demostración con intervenciones temporales permiten a las personas dar su opinión y ver posibles cambios en una calle,” said Noemy Rodriguez, Waterfront Initiative Organizer with GreenRoots in Chelsea. 

[Translation: Walk audits and demonstration days with temporary installations allow people to give feedback and see possible changes to a street.]

WalkMassachusetts’ efforts align with other promising programs being led by MassDOT, Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs), and local cities, including:

  • At least 10 Regional Vision Zero planning efforts are just starting, with funding through the U.S. Department of Transportation Safe Streets and Roads for All (SS4A) discretionary grant program. This is a sign that planning investments on a regional level have happened since our report in March 2023 to respond to safety issues on our roadways.
  • MassDOT has provided 281 school zone assemblies to 130 communities, and is developing a multi-year program to enhance bus stop crossings where pedestrian risk is high or there is a high potential for walking; they are starting with State-owned roadways (reviewing 212 bus stop locations).
  • The City of Boston has rolled out a “Safety Surge,” which focuses on three main areas: Speed Humps, Safer Intersections, and Safer Signals.

Other key crash data from the report

While total pedestrian deaths have dipped slightly from last year’s all-time high of 101 deaths, this year’s total of 69 deaths sits at the average of pedestrian deaths over the past 22 years. Other key insights include:

  • Boston, Springfield, and Brockton have had at least three fatal crashes each year that WalkMassachusetts has released a report.
  • More than three quarters (76.8%) of the fatalities took place on streets controlled by municipalities. Less than 20% (18.8%) were on MassDOT roads.
  • Almost 70% of the fatal pedestrian crashes occurred in the dark (before sunrise or after sunset).
  • More than half (54%) of fatal pedestrian crashes took place in Environmental Justice Census Block Groups.
  • 70.8% of the vehicles people were driving in these fatal crashes were passenger cars, while 21.5% were light trucks. (All vans, minivans, pickups, and SUVs are combined into the “light truck” category.)
  • 7 crashes were hit-and-run resulting in 8 deaths, where the driver left the scene of the crash.

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About WalkMassachusetts

WalkMassachusetts makes walking safer and easier in Massachusetts to encourage better health, a cleaner environment, and more vibrant communities. Founded in 1990 as WalkBoston, the organization envisions a Massachusetts where people walking – no matter their race, identity, age, ability, or lived experience – feel safe, connected, and valued on our streets and sidewalks.

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