The grim truth is that pedestrian deaths are on the rise around the country, as highlighted in a recent Consumer Reports article. In 2009, 4,109 pedestrians were killed in accidents with motor vehicles, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. By 2017, the death toll had risen by nearly 45 percent to 5,977. And early 2018 estimates recently released by the Governors Highway Safety Association puts the number of deaths at 6,227, which would be the largest number of pedestrians killed on the nation’s roadways since 1990.
Reasons for Rising Pedestrian Deaths
Why are more people being killed while walking? Experts point to a variety of factors. Here are some of them:
- Distracted drivers – Accidents caused by texting and the use of other electronics behind the wheel are also increasing.
- Distracted walkers – Sometimes pedestrians themselves are distracted, perhaps absorbed with their smartphones or listening to music through earbuds.
- Driving or walking while under the influence – Both drivers and pedestrians sometimes cause accidents due to alcohol use.
- Poor roadway design – A lack of crosswalks and sidewalks, high speed limits and poor lighting are some of the things contributing to pedestrian crashes.
More SUVs on our roads are also adding up to more fatalities, research from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety shows. As noted in the Consumer Reports article, pedestrians are more likely to be hit in the head or abdomen by higher riding SUVs and light trucks, which now account for 70 percent of U.S. vehicle sales.
What Can Be Done to Reverse Upward Trend in Deaths?
Some automakers are introducing pedestrian detection avoidance/mitigation systems into vehicle models. Basically, this is how they work: Imagine you are driving and look away from the road ahead for just an instant and suddenly a walker is crossing the road in front of you. The pedestrian detection system alerts you to the danger so you can react or it applies automatic emergency braking. According to a study by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Volpe Center, these systems can potentially reduce up to 5,000 vehicle-pedestrian crashes and 810 fatal vehicle-pedestrian accidents per year.
While these systems may certainly help reduce fatalities, much more has to be done. It’s obvious that everyone who uses roadways must do their part or accidents and deaths will continue to climb. Drivers must take the dangers of distracted driving more seriously and put down their phones and other devices. Walkers can practice defensive walking—meaning keeping their heads up and being alert to traffic around them so as not to become another crash victim.
Better roadway design and enforcement of traffic laws in cities is also critical. NHTSA statistics show that 76 percent of pedestrian fatalities happen in cities. Some cities are implementing things like raised curbs, pedestrian islands and improved crosswalks and crossing signals.
New York’s Dangerous Streets for Pedestrians
Here in New York, city officials implemented a Vision Zero plan a few years ago that includes reducing speed limits, designing safer roads and increasing traffic enforcement. The good news is that overall traffic deaths have decreased. In 2013, the year before the plan was put in place, there were 299 traffic fatalities. In 2018, there were 200.
However, the bad news, as reported in the New York Times, is that pedestrian deaths have actually increased. Last year 114 pedestrians died. In 2017, 107 were killed. New York still has a long way to go when it comes to pedestrian safety.
If you’ve been in an accident, the experienced personal injury attorneys at Kaplan Lawyers PC can help. Contact us today for a complimentary case evaluation.