Mass. set a record for pedestrian deaths in 2022. What is the state doing about it?

Traffic passing through the intersection of Seaport Boulevard and Atlantic Avenue in Boston in the early morning. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Traffic passing through the intersection of Seaport Boulevard and Atlantic Avenue in Boston in the early morning. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Editor's Note: This is an excerpt from WBUR's daily morning newsletter, WBUR Today. If you like what you read and want it in your inbox, sign up here

TGIF! Today is the last day you can use any Christmas Tree Shops gift cards you might have lying around your house. Before you rummage through your wallet and desk to check, let’s get to today’s news.

An alarming record: The fatal hit-and-run of a 4-year-old in Hyde Park this week was yet another tragic reminder of an increasing problem in Massachusetts: Not only have pedestrians deaths been on the rise as traffic has picked up in the wake of the pandemic, the Bay State set a new record last year for the number of people killed by cars. According to a MassDOT report, there were 101 pedestrian deaths in 2022, a 20% increase over the previous recorded high of 83 in 2012. There were also over 300 pedestrians seriously injured. (The record is 379, also set in 2012.)

  • Where are they occurring? According to MassDOT, 96% of pedestrian-involved crashes are occurring in urban areas. And an analysis by the group WalkBoston found that 71% of deaths last year happened in “environmental justice” neighborhoods.
  • Interestingly, MassDot also found a correlation between bus stops and pedestrian collisions. Between 2016 and 2022, 50% of them happened within 300 feet of a bus stop. (If you’ve ever had to swerve your bike into a vehicle lane to get around a bus making a stop, it’s not hard to understand why this might be.)
  • What is the state doing? Karissa Hand, a spokesperson for Gov. Maura Healey, says the administration is “alarmed by the increase in pedestrian deaths and committed to making our roads safer for all who use them.” The big focus is getting drivers to slow down. Hand noted a Route 28 “road diet” in Reading has served as a model. Meanwhile, MassDOT has been working with municipal officials to share best practices and identify crash hotspots.
  • What more could be done? MassDOT reported that 41% of pedestrian crashes happened at traffic light intersections, even though they make up fewer than 10% of all intersections. One bill to encourage drivers to be more cautious would allow the state to test out traffic light cameras that would automatically ticket drivers who run a red light. It’s something former Gov. Charlie Baker repeatedly proposed but never got through the State House.
  • What does Healey think? Hand says MassDOT is “constantly evaluating new strategies, including how we can utilize new technologies and innovation to reduce speeds.” But she was noncommittal on the topic of traffic light cameras: “Governor Healey will review any legislation that reaches her desk.”
  • Zoom out: U.S. pedestrian deaths reach a 40-year high.

Massachusetts is launching an online fundraiser to support farms damaged by last week’s floods. While the state is still applying to federal disaster aid for major repairs, Healey told reporters yesterday she is “not holding my breath” on the timeline. The hope is to raise $15 million in private donations. You can contribute online here.

  • By the numbers: State officials say at least 75 local farms in central and western Massachusetts were damaged by flooding. About 2,000 acres of crops worth at least $15 million were lost.

UMass Lowell is looking to shed staff due to “ongoing financial and demographic pressures” sweeping across the higher education sector. The university announced yesterday that it will freeze “non-strategic” hires and offer a voluntary buyout program to existing staff members. Whether layoffs come next depends on how many take the buyouts.

  • In a video, UMass Lowell Chancellor Julie Chen said the challenges are forcing them to shift where the school focuses its spending: “We will redirect resources to key priorities such as enrollment marketing and revenue-generating ideas, and identify ways to eliminate repetitive and duplicative work to reduce costs.”
  • Meanwhile: Lasell University in Newton is also making difficult decisions due to low enrollment. That includes laying off staff and eliminating majors like global studies, sociology and English.

Heads up: First Lady Jill Biden is back in Massachusetts this weekend. She’ll be in Provincetown for a fundraiser today and then visit Nantucket (a family favorite) for two more fundraisers tomorrow.

Calling all soccer fans: The U.S. women’s national team begins their quest Down Under for a World Cup three-peat tonight at 9 p.m. against Vietnam, who are playing in their first women’s World Cup ever. And a local group is hosting a watch party for fans of both teams at Saigon Seafood in Dorchester’s Fields Corner. (RSVP here.)

P.S.— Labor shortages are affecting many industries, but one expanding sector in Massachusetts could be particularly hamstrung, according to a new report this week. Do you know which one it is? Then take our Boston News Quiz.


Nik DeCosta-Klipa Newsletter Editor
Nik DeCosta-Klipa is the newsletter editor for WBUR.



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