Last year’s national pedestrian death toll was troubling enough but, if projections for 2016 are correct, that number could increase dramatically.
While new vehicles are consistently becoming safer and more crash-worthy, pedestrians aren’t so lucky. According to a new study, the number of pedestrians killed in traffic crashes nationally increased by 10 percent in 2015, making it the largest statistical jump since 1975, when nationwide records first started being kept.
Twenty-six states and the District of Columbia showed increases in pedestrian deaths for 2015. The report, supplied by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), found that larger states with large urban centers tended to have more fatalities. Of those, California, Florida, Texas, and New York led the way, accounting for 42 percent of all pedestrian deaths in the first half of last year.
There’s plenty of blame to go around for the surge in pedestrian deaths. Some experts point to the fact that more people are out driving due to lower gasoline prices.
However, others say you need look no further than distracted driving and distracted walking. With the growing use of cell phones, people are paying less attention than they used to, opting to concentrate on talking, texting, or wearing headphones to listen to the latest tunes rather than focusing on driving or approaching vehicles that may or may not stop when crossing the street.
According to Kara Macek, spokeswoman for the GHSA, there’s still limited data on the effects of distraction. But, Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center director Charlie Zeeger believes that distraction is one issue that is plaguing safety efforts. In fact, Zeeger goes on to explain that it’s a difficult problem to overcome with traditional engineering improvements. In the long run, people will do what they want to do.
Short of getting motorists and pedestrians to alter their behavior – which is unlikely to happen unless their distraction with a cell phone or other device results in a serious accident – the best solution may be to suggest a few safety guidelines, including the following:
- Use crosswalks at all times
- Watch for turning vehicles, regardless of having the right of way
- Don’t assume a vehicle will stop just because you enter the crosswalk or the signal says “walk”
- Avoid jaywalking or crossing at unmarked intersections
- Don’t run or walk across a busy highway
- Pay attention when walking past an alley or driveway
- Wear bright or light colored clothing when walking or jogging at night
- Carry a flashlight to make yourself more visible to motorists at night when walking alongside a road or street with no sidewalk
- Walk your bike across an intersection
None of these guidelines will have much of an effect on your lifestyle or daily routine, but they may help reduce the likelihood of your being injured when out for a walk, jog, or bike ride. After all, relying on luck and a driver’s auto insurance to take care of your injuries, which could turn out to be fatal, may not be the best way to go.