Frustrated at the flagrant disregard many motorists seem to have for pedestrian safety, one Utah artist decided to take action after a woman in her neighborhood was struck and killed by a distracted driver. She’s tried a number of colorful and attention-getting solutions, taken a city planning class, and even dressed as a superhero to bring attention to traffic safety issues.
Susan Krueger-Barber of Provo was saddened but motivated when a woman in her neighborhood was killed by a distracted driver who ran a red light while she was in a crosswalk. Krueger-Barber had noticed that many drivers didn’t slow down for crosswalks, so she put her artistic talents to use with a safety project: a giant orange pedestrian-crossing flag, nearly 120 feet square.
But despite standing at crosswalks and waving the flag right in front of approaching drivers, most still ignored the warning completely and drove right through without slowing or stopping. “That was kind of terrifying,” she said.
After researching the problem and taking a city planning class, Krueger-Barber put art to work in the service of safe street design. One of her first experiments was simply placing marker balloons in the street to make the open travel lane narrower.
This narrowing is a street design feature known as a bulb-out, and the effort was successful: Cars slowed down at the bulb-out. Since then, she’s tried other experiments and has also led her neighbors in setting up ad-hoc traffic-calming measures on busy streets. Provo is now planning to adopt some of these measures and make them a permanent feature of some of its streets.
Krueger-Barber’s work is addressing possibly the most important factor in pedestrian crashes: speed. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety looked at pedestrian crash reports and analyzed the risk of death as it related to the speed of the vehicle involved. When a collision occurred at 23 mph, only about 10 percent of pedestrian crashes were fatal, but that number shot up quickly with faster speeds. At 32 mph, 25 percent of pedestrians died, while when the vehicle was moving at 42 mph or faster, only about half of pedestrians survived. By 58 mph, 90 percent of these encounters were fatal.
Drivers always seem to be in a hurry, and this presents a continual risk to pedestrians, but as Krueger-Barber’s combined safety-art projects have shown—including one in a Chicago neighborhood where she created a bulb-out using piñatas—creative solutions can make a huge difference. You can see some of her projects in more detail and hear her discuss her work in this video clip.
Not every neighborhood has someone as dedicated to safety as Susan Krueger-Barber, and not every city and town will take measures to improve conditions that are dangerous for pedestrians. If anything, the streets have become even more dangerous for those on foot. Last year, pedestrian fatalities reached their highest level since 1996, seeing a nearly 10 percent jump over the previous year and claiming nearly 5,400 lives nationwide.
At Craig Swapp & Associates, we understand pedestrian accident law. If you’ve been the victim of a pedestrian crash, contact us to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case. Our number is 1-800-404-9000. You can also reach us online through the form below or launch the LiveChat feature from any page of this website.