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Trailnet report finds traffic violence on the rise in St. Louis — and offers solutions

Balloons are placed at the intersection of South Grand Boulevard and Forest Park Avenue, where four people were killed and four others injured after a vehicle ran a red light, crashed into the SUV they were in and sent it hurtling over an overpass.
Emily Woodbury
Grand Boulevard has been the most dangerous corridor for people walking in the city of St. Louis every year since 2020. Total crashes involving a person walking on Grand increased from 21 in 2022 to 28 in 2023.

Last year was the deadliest on record for people walking in St. Louis County, where drivers killed 28 pedestrians. It’s not just a county problem — traffic violence is on the rise throughout the region, according to Trailnet CEO Cindy Mense.

“Driver behavior has changed, especially after the pandemic. We're seeing more speeding [and] failure to yield for pedestrians. We're also seeing inattentive driving, or distracted driving, happening more frequently — and improper attention to signals, like blowing through stop lights.”


Trailnet’s 2023 Crash Report shows that 646 people were injured or killed while walking or biking in St. Louis and St. Louis County in 2023. Accounting for drivers as well, more than 14,000 people in the St. Louis region were killed, injured or had damage to property from roadway crashes. Those statistics signify a lot of post-traumatic stress that stems from traffic violence, Mense said.

“We hear from people directly about the trauma and fear inflicted on them — they’ve lost mothers, fathers, sons, children,” she said. Along problem corridors like Page Avenue, she added, residents are witness to frequent crashes in their front yards and are often called to help pull people out of the wreckage. “It really has a lasting impact, the trauma of it all.”

New Halls Ferry Road is a particularly dangerous corridor for pedestrians in St. Louis County, the report found. With five lanes and long blocks, it’s problematic for people walking to grocery stores, parks, Metro stations and bus stops.

“Roads need to be designed in a way that meets the needs of all users. And so for pedestrians, [that means] having shorter crossings for them, like a pedestrian island in the middle — a physical structure that's going to protect them as they're passing,” Mense said. “You can do a lane reduction. Rarely do we need five lanes.”

In addition to infrastructure changes, Trailnet’s report advocates for the education of new drivers and an equitable, safe and affordable way to more strictly enforce traffic laws.

Mense said Trailnet will pay close attention to new laws aiming to improve enforcement, including Missouri’s recent ban on distracted driving and the St. Louis Board of Aldermen’s vote to authorize the return of red-light cameras.


Overall, Mense is optimistic about St. Louis’ future. She said the city’s plan to use at least $40 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds for traffic-calming measures is a historic investment. She hopes a portion of those funds will be used on Grand Boulevard, which has been the most dangerous corridor for people walking in St. Louis for years.

“What I'd like to see on Grand is shorter crossing distances [and] pedestrian safety islands. There are [also] places where it could have a lane reduction,” Mense said.

Mense said she’s looking forward to an upcoming meeting with St. Louis County Executive Sam Page about the importance of protective infrastructure for people walking and biking, especially in north county, where there is less connectivity for pedestrians and fewer mid-block crossings.

“We hope to get their attention,” she said. “We've worked with them in the past. In 2019, we worked with [St. Louis County] to develop their action plan for walking and biking, and so they do have some plans where they could address it and have separated and protected facilities.”

For more information and stories from the 2023 Trailnet Crash Report, listen to St. Louis on the Air on Apple Podcast, Spotify or click the play button below.

Trailnet report finds traffic violence on the rise in St. Louis

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is produced by Ulaa Kuziez, Miya Norfleet, Emily Woodbury, Danny Wicentowski, Elaine Cha and Alex Heuer. Roshae Hemmings is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Emily is the senior producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.