Walking is the oldest and most basic form of transportation. More people are walking to get fit, stay healthy, and even save on transportation. But there’s growing evidence that people simply walking on a downtown sidewalk, or crossing a street, do so at their peril.
A report released in early 2017 by the Governors Highway Safety Association shows that the number of pedestrians killed in traffic accidents jumped 11 percent last year, to nearly 6,000. A parallel collection of fatal traffic crash data for 2016, from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), generally mirrors the GHSA numbers, with the average daily death toll to pedestrians being 16 — up from 13 a short two years ago.
There are many reasons for this noticeable spike. But safety experts note a “perfect storm” of factors for this increase in pedestrian-involved traffic deaths (and injuries). A stronger economy and low gas prices mean there are more cars on the road, and people are driving more often, But that’s only part of the story.
One obvious hint can be seen during rush hour in downtown Manhattan just by looking at both the drivers of the thousands of vehicles inching through traffic and the mob of pedestrians crossing the busy intersections and driveways. Notice the one thing most of the pedestrians have in common: their eyes are glued to their phone screens, fingers dashing, when they should be looking up.
“We are crazy distracted,” says Melody Geraci, deputy executive director of the Active Transportation Alliance, an NGO which advocates for better walking, cycling and public transportation options. “After speeding and the failure to yield, distractions are the number three cause [of pedestrian fatalities], their attentions drawn particularly by their electronic devices.”
But it takes more than one element to create a “perfect storm.” And distracted drivers are certainly holding up their end. Look at the same rush hour scene. Drivers are distracted not only by their handheld devices but also to vehicle infotainment and navigation screens in the dashboards of their cars, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
“Some in-vehicle technology can create unsafe situations for drivers by increasing the time they spend with their eyes and attention off the road and [at times] hands off the wheel,” said Dr. David Yang, executive director of the AAA Foundation. “When an in-vehicle technology is not properly designed, simple tasks for drivers can become complicated and require more effort from drivers to complete.”
The foundation commissioned researchers to examine the visual (eyes off road) and cognitive (mental) demand, as well as the time it took drivers to complete a task using the infotainment systems in 30 new 2017 vehicles. Programming navigation was the most distracting task, taking an average of 40 seconds to complete. None of the 30 vehicle infotainment systems surveyed produced low demand, and 23 of them generated high or very high levels of demand, creating long periods of driver distraction and, by association, potentially more accidents.
So with more drivers distracted by their screens, while pedestrians’ eyes are on their handheld devices, is anyone surprised that more pedestrians are being seriously hurt and killed?
If you have been injured as a pedestrian by a motor vehicle, please call The Kaplan Law Firm at (516) 399-2364 or fill out our online contact form.