Monday, April 3, 2017

Distraction is contributing to a rapid rise in pedestrian deaths

Image credit: Governors Highway Safety Association
The number of pedestrians killed in traffic in the United States went up 11 percent last year, the largest single-year increase ever. This is according to a report released by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) last week. The rise in pedestrian deaths far outpaces the six percent rise in all traffic deaths over the same period. The nearly 6,000 pedestrians killed in 2016 is also the highest number in more than 20 years. Maureen Vogel, spokeswoman for the National Safety Council attributes the upward trend to driver and pedestrian distraction. She believes cellphones account for much of that distraction. According to the Active Transportation Alliance in Chicago, distraction, particularly by electronic devices, is the number three killer of pedestrians behind speeding and the failure to yield.

There are other factors at play including poor lighting, failure to use a crosswalk, and alcohol consumption. According to the GHSA report, 74 percent of pedestrian fatalities happen at night and 72 percent of pedestrians killed were not crossing at intersections. 15 percent of pedestrians killed are hit by a drunk driver while 34 percent of pedestrians killed are legally drunk themselves. High vehicle speeds dramatically increase the likelihood of pedestrian fatality as well. According to the Active Transportation Alliance, a pedestrian struck at 20 miles per hour has a 10 percent chance of dying while a pedestrian struck at 40 miles per hour has an 80 percent chance of dying.

Some cities such as New York City have reduced speed limits to protect pedestrians. Safety advocates also support improved road design, more sidewalks, and new alert systems in vehicles.

Read more from NPR or the GHSA report.

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