Racial differences and pedestrian safety: Some evidence from Maryland and implications for policy

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

planning - safety/accidents, mode - pedestrian


In the 1990s, federal legislation was passed requiring transportation planning to incorporate the interests of all stakeholder groups. One urban transportation mode that is often ignored is pedestrian movement. A group particularly susceptible to difficulties in this mode is the elderly. This study surveys the attitudes of senior citizens in regard to pedestrian safety and motorist interactions. We examine the attitudes of elderly pedestrians concerning many aspects of pedestrian travel. The study finds that this group often views itself as disenfranchised. This study provides insight into what areas of pedestrian activity the elderly find troublesome and looks at the differences between urban and rural attitudes in regard to this issue.

The results show that African Americans and Asians have a much higher rate of positive (safety conscious) responses to the questions in the survey. This indicates that they believe that they are more aware of pedestrian safety and that they comply with laws regarding pedestrian safety at a higher rate than their Caucasian counterparts. In addition, gender and geographical location seem to impact the responses. Urban seniors have a much higher positive response rate than suburban and ex-urban seniors. A comparison with previous work finds that these attitudes expressed in the survey are at odds with the known demographic data concerning who is at higher risk to be involved in a pedestrian accident. The increased awareness on the part of urban respondents is compatible with the more pedestrian-friendly environment of urban areas, but the racial difference in responses is not compatible with the accident data.


Permission to publish the abstract given by the Journal of Public Transportation.