Sandi Vega tends a makeshift memorial for her daughter Brittany...

Sandi Vega tends a makeshift memorial for her daughter Brittany Vega, 14, who was killed while crossing Sunrise Highway on her way to school. (April 26, 2011) Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

Nassau and Suffolk counties rank third and fourth in pedestrian fatality rates among New York's 62 counties, according to a national report. The survey spurred calls for the state to redesign Long Island's deadliest roads for pedestrians.

The report, released Tuesday by the national nonprofit group Transportation for America, found that 52 percent of pedestrian fatalities across the country from 2000 through 2009 occurred on arterial roads -- thoroughfares it noted were engineered to move cars quickly, with little or no provision for people on foot, in wheelchairs or on bicycles.

Local transportation advocates called for the state Department of Transportation to invest more in safety projects and to develop plans to reduce pedestrian deaths on Hempstead Turnpike and Sunrise Highway, state roads that federal data show are among the region's most dangerous for pedestrians.

"We say 'accidents' as if it's just a fact of life," said James Corless, director of Transportation for America, based in Washington, D.C. "These are preventable."

DOT spokeswoman Jennifer Post said pedestrian and bicycle safety enhancements are now a standard part of every state project.

"Safety is our No. 1 priority, and any fatality or crash is one too many," she said.

Upstate Essex County and Manhattan ranked first and second in the state's pedestrian fatality rate.

The report was based on data from the Federal Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the American Community Survey.

It found that 3,222 pedestrians were killed in New York State from 2000 through 2009. Sixty percent of those deaths, the report said, occurred on roads with speed limits of 40 mph or greater.

Seniors and minorities were affected disproportionately: New York State has the fourth-highest death rate nationally for pedestrians over age 65, the report said. And across the state, Hispanics and African-Americans had higher pedestrian fatality rates than non-Hispanic whites, it said.

The Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a nonprofit advocacy group that releases an annual report on the region's most hazardous roads, has repeatedly found Hempstead Turnpike and the Suffolk County portion of Sunrise Highway to be among the deadliest in the region for pedestrians. "A lot of the changes ... to make walking safer are easy to make," said Kate Slevin, the campaign's executive director. "These are very simple changes and don't cost a lot of money."

The group urged passage of a "Complete Streets" bill introduced in the State Senate last week by Sen. Charles Fuschillo (R-Merrick) and approved Tuesday by the Senate Transportation Committee, which Fuschillo chairs.

The legislation requires that designers of major road construction or reconstruction projects consider all users of the road. It encourages safety features for bicyclists and pedestrians, including countdown crosswalk signals and pedestrian islands that provide refuge for people who run out of time before reaching the other side.

So far, 25 states have adopted Complete Streets policies, and Congress is considering a federal Complete Streets bill.

Post said the DOT is developing a Safe Routes to Transit program, aimed at increasing safety measures near railroad stations and bus stops, and plans to expand its SafeSeniors program from Long Island to other areas.

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