Massachusetts had a 35 percent increase in pedestrian deaths in 2022, when 101 people were killed by vehicles, up from 75 people the prior year, according to a study released Thursday by WalkBoston, a statewide advocacy organization.
A majority of the pedestrians were killed in impoverished neighborhoods in some of the state’s largest cities, after dark, with senior citizens hit and killed at the highest rate, according to the report.
Of the state’s 351 cities and towns, 60 of them experienced fatal pedestrian crashes in 2022, compared with 47 in 2021, the report showed.
Boston surpassed all other cities in the state with 12 pedestrian deaths last year. Worcester had the second most pedestrian deaths with seven. Chicopee had the third most with five, the report showed.
“The sharp rise in fatal crashes is extremely troubling,” Brendan Kearney, deputy director of WalkBoston, said in a statement. “Unsafe road design is creating fatal consequences for communities across the Commonwealth. Designing our streets to reduce illegal speeding — targeting the most dangerous locations first for fixes — will save lives.”
WalkBoston calls on state transportation officials to release an action plan for safe streets, and for the Legislature to fund staff and resources in support of eliminating fatal crashes.
“Better road design is needed across the Commonwealth in municipalities of all sizes to slow traffic and make streets safer for people walking,” the report said.
Of the 101 fatal pedestrian crashes, 72 occurred in Environmental Justice neighborhoods, according to the report.
Federal census statistics determine if a neighborhood meets the Environmental Justice designation, including an annual household income that is 65 percent or less of the statewide median; people of color comprising at least 40 percent of the population; and 25 percent of households lacking English proficiency, according to the Massachusetts state website.
“Residents in environmental justice neighborhoods deserve the ability to walk and move through their community without the threat of being hit and killed by someone operating a vehicle,” said Tahara Samuel, community planning manager at Madison Park Development Corporation.
“The findings in the report that more people have died in fatal crashes this year than last should be a wake up call for state and municipal leaders that the status quo is not working,” Samuel said. ‘We agree with WalkBoston that the Commonwealth needs to prioritize protecting people and designing our streets to ensure safe streets for all.”
The Roxbury Corridors project is a good starting point for Boston, Samuel said, providing a “chance to hear from community members on how to make investments to fix Warren Street, Malcolm X Boulevard, and Melnea Cass Boulevard.”
In line with last year’s findings, senior citizens were hit and killed at a higher rate than any other age group, the report said. Thirty-eight percent of last year’s victims were over the age of 65, yet only 17 percent of the state population is over 65.
Sixty percent of the fatal pedestrian crashes happened after dark and 10 were hit and run crashes where the driver left the scene, the report said.
WalkBoston asks the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to release an action plan based on its Strategic Highway Safety Plan that features sections on speed management and top-risk locations and populations and asks the Legislature to identify funding.