We’ve told you before about the increasing number of car accidents and vehicular injuries – many of them resulting in deaths – that many observers attribute to distracted driving. But what you may not know is that pedestrian fatalities are now at a 33-year high and seem to be continuing to increase unabated.
A recent report by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) found that 5,987 pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes in the United States in 2016, which was a 9% increase in such fatalities from 2015 and 26% since 2013, when 4,735 pedestrians were killed.
Pedestrian deaths accounted for 16% of all traffic fatalities.
Many large cities have seen pedestrian deaths soar. In Los Angeles, such fatalities have jumped 80% in the last three years. The problem is largely in cities, and often the deaths occur when a driver isn’t paying attention and turns right into a crosswalk as people are crossing the street.
And while you may feel that since you’re not out walking much, or that the chances of being hit are small in your neigbhorhood, remember that everyone is a pedestrian at some point. Even if you drive a car, ride a bike or take public transit, your journey always begins and ends on foot.
Also, as we become more fitness conscious and with the growing use of fitness trackers like FitBit, more people are walking. Many people also have opted to walk for environmental reasons.
With all this in mind, pedestrian safety needs to be a top priority for everybody.
Some sobering statistics
The GHSA report found that:
- 72% of pedestrians were killed during evening or late night hours.
- 73% of pedestrian fatalities occurred in urban areas.
- Rural areas account for 27 % of pedestrian fatalities.
- 69% of pedestrian deaths occurred in non-intersection locations.
- 92% of pedestrian deaths involved a single vehicle.
One rising danger is distracted driving. Deaths from distracted driving account for 10% of all fatal crashes, 18% of injury crashes and 16% of all police-reported crashes. About 12% of people killed due to distracted driving are pedestrians.
What remains unknown is how many pedestrians who were killed in a crash involving a distracted driver may have been distracted themselves. Recent research shows that many people are also engaging in distracted walking, usually typing on their smartphones or engaging in chats while walking.
Researchers at The Ohio State University found that between 2004 and 2010 the number of pedestrians killed while using a cell phone increased from less than 1% to 3.6%.
The Ohio State researchers also discovered that in 2010, more than 1,500 pedestrians were estimated to have been treated for injuries related to cell phone use while walking. That number had more than doubled since 2005.
- If you are out walking, don’t do so while listening to music with earbuds or headphones.
- Always be aware of what the vehicles driving near you are doing.
- If there are no sidewalks, always walk against the flow of traffic on the side so you can see any erratic drivers coming.
- When crossing at crosswalks, always check the vehicles even if the light is green, so that you aren’t hit by a car whose driver isn’t paying attention.
- Look both ways when crossing the street.
- Don’t use your smartphone at all when driving (no texting, chatting or talking).
- Always be aware of the other vehicles you share the road with, as well as pedestrians.
- Be especially careful and reduce your speed when driving at dusk and at night in residential areas.
- Remember, pedestrians have the right of way. Yield for them at crosswalks and zebra crossings.