Walking to work or to the store is better for the climate than driving, so climate advocates encourage people to leave their cars at home when possible.

But for the past decade, pedestrian safety in the U.S. has been headed in the wrong direction. Fatal accidents involving pedestrians have gone up 44%.

“We see speed – vehicle speed – is a major factor in pedestrian deaths,” says Dan Gelinne of the University of North Carolina’s Highway Safety Research Center.

He says research shows that design can make a big difference.

“Changing the roadway design to facilitate lower speeds by vehicles, to improve visibility of pedestrians, to make it more comfortable to walk – these are the things that really are proven to decrease death and injury,” Gelinne says.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has released a new pedestrian safety action plan that calls for more research on these solutions.

The first-of-its-kind plan will lead to new guidelines for safer intersections, crosswalks, lights, and more.

“Anything that the plan can do to increase the uptake and the use of these effective roadway design strategies is going to really make a difference,” Gelline says.

And that will help people walk safely wherever they need to go.

Reporting credit: Stephanie Manuzak/ChavoBart Digital Media.