Since 2005, fatal accidents involving pedestrians have been on the rise. While motor vehicle deaths were declining, people on foot were not so lucky. According to preliminary numbers for 2015, the trend continued. A recent report issued by the Governors Highway Safety Association claims that pedestrian deaths in 2015 rose by 10 percent over the figures from 2014. While the numbers are still preliminary, it appears that pedestrian deaths will make up a greater percentage of traffic deaths than they have in a quarter century.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data concerning pedestrian deaths contains several important pieces of information. Roughly three out of every four fatal pedestrian accidents occur at night. Alcohol is found in the bloodstream of approximately one-third of fatal pedestrian accident victims. Drunk drivers are responsible for 15 percent of deadly pedestrian accidents.
A likely contributor to pedestrian deaths is harder to quantify. Distracted drivers and distracted pedestrians are a known danger, but one that is difficult to track. Some suggest that the growth in pedestrian deaths over the past 10 years is tied to the rise in popularity of cell phones. State laws banning texting while driving often ignore the danger posed by distracted pedestrians. Even where pedestrians have the right of way, it is smart to pay attention to your surroundings and look before you cross. That does not relieve drivers of their responsibility to yield the right of way to pedestrians, but it could explain some of the rise in pedestrian fatalities.
Whatever the underlying cause, pedestrian deaths are growing. Legislators, safety experts and city officials should be on the lookout for ways to improve pedestrian safety. The issue is unlikely to improve without some level of focused effort.
Source: U.S. News, “Pedestrian deaths surged last year by an estimated 10 percent,” by Joan Lowy, 8 March 2016