Group Blames Roads and Speed for Pedestrian Deaths; Review Includes Methuen and Lawrence

Methuen Police at the scene of a fatal hit and run accident in 2019. (Courtesy photograph.)

An advocacy group pointed to speed limits and road design Friday as leading culprits in 2021 accidents that claimed pedestrian lives, including fatalities in Methuen, Lawrence and Newburyport.

WalkBoston, a Massachusetts pedestrian advocacy organization, said Friday more than half of state incidents where pedestrians were killed in crashes last year took place in just a dozen communities. Among other findings, the report shows that 40 of 75 deaths happened in just 12 municipalities.

“The data sadly confirm that crashes are happening throughout the Commonwealth, with the same municipalities emerging again and again as higher risk,” said Stacey Beuttell, executive director of WalkBoston. “Every life lost is tragic, but the data also gives us confidence that by implementing proven road safety improvements and lowering speed limits, it is absolutely possible to reduce or even eliminate pedestrian deaths in Massachusetts.”

Locally, Lawrence was cited as having two pedestrian deaths, while Methuen, Newburyport and Salisbury suffered one each.

The report also noted adults over the age of 65 were disproportionate pedestrian crash victims, making up 36% of those killed while representing only 17% of the population.

James Fuccione, senior director of the Massachusetts Healthy Aging Collaborative, said “We are all aging and we should all want communities that support our ability to be active and engaged throughout our lives. And, investing in age-friendly designs that support just that should be the norm—MassDOT’s Complete Streets and Shared Streets and Spaces programs are a great example.”

More than half of Massachusetts’ fatal pedestrian crashes occurred on streets with 30-35 miles-per-hour speed limits, which the report called “hostile to people walking or in wheelchairs.”

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