El Paso has a reputation as a “safe” city. Don’t believe the outside hype that says El Paso is a hotbed for murder; statistics show that El Paso is consistently in the Top Ten Biggest U.S. cities for having the lowest violent crime rate.

Traffic safety is a completely different matter. Our overall traffic fatality rate is fairly comparable to similar-sized cities. It’s specifically pedestrian-involved traffic accidents where El Paso ends up on the wrong kind of list. According to a metric called the “Pedestrian Danger Index”, El Paso comes in 20th place. For the years 2010 to 2019, El Paso had 215 pedestrian fatalities. Adjusted for population, El Paso is very close to Houston and Atlanta with a Pedestrian Danger Index score of 150.6 (compared to 157.5 for Houston and 152.3 for Atlanta.

Interestingly, the rate of non-pedestrian involved traffic fatalities has dropped enormously, down a whopping 53 percent from 2000 to 2010. Pedestrian fatalities have remained a problem, though.

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In an El Paso Times story titled menacingly as, “El Paso a Deadly City for Pedestrians” it’s revealed that there have been 1,261 pedestrian-involved traffic accidents since 2015. That’s above the national average, but the really scary statistic is the number of those pedestrian incidents that proved fatal. In El Paso, 10.5 % of those accidents resulted in one or more pedestrian deaths. That does stand out, statistically. The fact that more than 1 in every 10 pedestrian accidents result in a fatality highlights a couple of things. First, the speed of the vehicles involved is high enough to be fatal…usually at or over 20-25 miles per hour. Second, in many of the fatal cases, the cars didn’t even slow down before making impact. That means, more than likely, the driver was not paying attention. In fact, the two biggest areas that make walking in El Paso so dangerous are distracted drivers and, coming as no surprise, alcohol.

As far as improving the situation in El Paso, TxDoT says they are adding “enhanced pedestrian crossings”, one on Dyer and the other on Mesa near the Cincinnati entertainment district. The “enhancement” involves a median island so pedestrians can play the highest-stakes real-world game of Frogger trying to cross the street. Oh, there’s also a going to be a billboard with tire tracks over people’s faces because I guess we’re willing to try anything at this point.

Maybe I’m comparing apples to oranges here but, every time I drive over the tracks of the now-unused city streetcar I can’t help but ask “is our city really spending money in the right places?”

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