Traffic crashes result in a pedestrian injury every eight minutes and a pedestrian death every two hours, according to crash statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). These numbers are concerning, yet many people continue to walk near traffic for exercise or as a mode of commuting to work.
Walking to work has been increasing in popularity, as an estimated 4.1 million people reported walking to work in 2015 compared to 3.9 million in 2006, according to a U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. And although walking may be a pretty safe mode of transportation compared to driving, the risks have increased significantly over the years, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA).
In fact, the number of pedestrians killed in this nation has risen over the years. The GHSA study estimates that the number of pedestrian fatalities increased from 5,376 to 5,997 deaths (an 11 percent increase from 2015 to 2016)—the largest annual spike in pedestrian deaths in the 40 year period that national records have been kept. What’s even more shocking is that fatal pedestrian accidents increased 25 percent from 2010 to 2015, with numbers predicted to continue to rise into 2017. While the numbers aren’t final yet, it is estimated that 2016 may be the first year in over twenty years with more than 6,000 pedestrian fatalities.
For Virginia, pedestrian safety is a real concern as pedestrian fatalities in our state came in above the national average of 11 percent. Sadly, 50 pedestrians lost their lives in 2016 compared to 37 pedestrian deaths in 2015. This is a 35.1 percent increase in pedestrian fatalities for the time period that was studied (data was compared for the first six months of 2015 and 2016).
Some Factors That Contribute to Pedestrian Crashes
Although there are many causes of pedestrian fatalities, cell phones are being cited in this study as one of the main factors contributing to the increase in pedestrian deaths. Any time someone accesses a smart phone—whether walking or driving—it can increase the risk of crashing.
Distracted driving and distracted walking associated with traffic accidents have been well documented, and it’s easy to see why. When someone is on their phone, dialing, texting, emailing, or engaging in social media, it can cause a driver and a pedestrian to become distracted—increasing the chance of being in a serious crash.
The report also cites alcohol as a factor in pedestrian accidents. Everyone knows that drinking and driving can lead to crashes, but walking impaired can also increase the chances of being hit by a driver. Anytime someone drives drunk or walks home after drinking alcohol, it can lead to poor judgment and slower reflexes. In fact, the study claims that 34 percent of pedestrians who lost their lives in 2015 were over the legal limit themselves.
Ways to Reduce Pedestrian Deaths
In order to reduce the amount of pedestrian crashes and the high number of injuries and fatalities, it will require an effort from multiple parties including cities and counties, drivers, as well as pedestrians.
Cities need to:
- Reduce speeds on streets that seem to have a higher pedestrian activity
- Create more bicycle lanes or sidewalks in places that need them
- Install rapid-flashing beacons at pedestrian crossing signs
- Make street lighting better
- Create high-visibility crosswalks
- Install pedestrian refuge islands where appropriate
Drivers need to:
- Look out for pedestrians and pedestrian crossings
- Share the road and yield to pedestrians
- Obey speed limits and crosswalk rules
- Put down their phones and focus on driving
- Stop driving impaired
Pedestrians need to:
- Obey the crosswalk rules and not jaywalk
- Stay away from walking near traffic after consuming alcohol
- Stop walking distracted
- Wear reflective and/or bright clothing when walking at night (74% of pedestrian fatalities in 2015 happened after dark, according to the GHSA study.)
In addition to these steps, more needs to be done to reduce pedestrian fatalities. We urge you to share this article with your friends and family on your favorite social media site as a way to remind them to drive and walk safely.
If you or a loved one has been involved in a pedestrian accident and you need legal advice, please call our office for a complimentary consultation.