Smart Growth America reports that 46,149 people were struck and killed by cars while walking 2005 to 2014.  Dangerous by Design 2016 was recently released, and stated that more efforts are needed to make streets safe for walking in America. Of the 104 major metropolitan statistical areas studied, Detroit-Warren-Dearborn ranked 17th with 1.61 annual pedestrian fatalities per 100,000 population. This was an increase of approximately 12.6, within the last two years.

Michigan’s population of individuals identified as racial minorities is 21.6%, however the percentage of pedestrian deaths for this group is 41.3%. Pedestrian fatalities for Caucasians is 0.81 per 100,000 population while non-Caucasian fatalities are 3.00 per 100,000 population, a relative risk of 2.49. There is a negative correlation between a metropolitan area’s median household income and pedestrian fatalities. Lower-income metropolitan areas are correlated with higher number of fatalities. This makes Michigan 7th highest in the 50 states and District of Columbia. Many innovations have been made to increase the safety for the passengers inside of a car, however these advantages have not been instituted to protect walkers.

Ironically, this is when health experts are encouraging Americans to walk more to prevent chronic diseases and obesity. According to America’s Health Rankings, Michigan ranks as the 34th healthiest state facing challenges of a high rate of cardiovascular deaths. Regular exercise is noted to be imperative to prevent heart disease, which is why it is important to construct safer streets to encourage more walking.  The State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America released a report (September 2016 ranking Michigan as the 16th highest adult obesity rate in the nation. “Michigan’s adult obesity rate is currently 31.2 percent, up from 22.1 percent in 2000 and from 13.2 percent in 1990.”

With the changing landscape and rebuilding of the Detroit as well as the metropolitan area, now is the time to consider incorporating more pedestrian friendly infrastructure to increase the prospects for safe walking, safe biking, comply with American’s with Disabilities Act, and improve the health of our population through opportunities for healthier behaviors.

We urge local governments, policy makers, and residents to support the opportunity we have to have safer and healthier communities.

-Janine E. Janosky, Ph.D., Dean, College of Education, Health, and Human Services,Professor, Department of Health and Human Services at the University of Michigan-Dearborn

-Jennifer L.S. Teller, Ph.D., Program Manager, Center for Disparity Solutions and Equity, College of Education, Health, and Human Services at the University of Michigan-Dearborn

-Darrin C. Winston, Jr., Public Ally, Center for Disparity Solutions and Equity, College of Education, Health, and Human Services at the University of Michigan-Dearborn

Ed. Note: This post is in response to a piece about Detroit being listed as the least healthy city in America and is the opinion of the author. We are a platform for community discussion, and this post was submitted by our community. If you’d like to submit something for consideration, hit up our contact form. 


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