6000 Deaths in Recent Years Has Caused Safety Officials to Worry
While the number of people killed in auto accidents is slowly leveling off, pedestrians are now finding themselves in harm’s way more often than in previous years. The headlines tell the story, “Pedestrian hit and killed by pickup on US 301,” Pedestrian hit, killed in early morning crash.” Safety officials say the blame lies on both vehicle drivers and pedestrians alike.
Pedestrian deaths have been increasing for over two decades.
According to a news release from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), an estimated 6000 pedestrians were killed in 2017. That was the second year in a row that 6000 people were killed after being hit by a vehicle, making 2016 and 2017 two of the deadliest years for pedestrian accidents in the past 25. As GHSA Executive Director John Adkins noted:
“Two consecutive years of 6,000 pedestrian deaths is a red flag for all of us in the traffic safety community. These high levels are no longer a blip but unfortunately a sustained trend.” Adkins added, “We can’t afford to let this be the new normal.”
GHSA isn’t the only organization following this tragic trend. Earlier this year, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) said in a report it authored that the 6,000 mark represented a 46 percent increase in pedestrian deaths since 2008. IIHS has also reported that its research shed some light on why pedestrians are being hit at an alarming rate. As noted in the IIHS report, SUVs are more likely to be involved in these fatal crashes, and it doesn’t take much research to understand why; a human being hit by a large, heavy vehicle is not going to walk away unharmed.
Reasons Behind Increased Pedestrian Accidents
In addition, IIHS has noted that these fatal accidents typically occur on roads that are designed to merge traffic, such as areas near on-ramps to freeways. Speeding is usually another factor in why these types of crashes are fatal. However, IIHS says pedestrians are also to blame in some cases. Some pedestrians try to cross heavily traveled roads outside of designated crosswalks, putting themselves in harm’s way when doing so. Officials say those walking need to do their part to stay safe, which means waiting for an indication that it’s safe to walk and crossing roads at designated crosswalks, even if it means walking a little further.
Nighttime is a particularly dangerous time for pedestrians, as a majority of these crashes occur after dark. One national publication that focuses on policies for local governments highlights data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that shows one-third of all nationwide pedestrian fatalities occur at night, a majority occurring in dimly lit areas.
Denver residents should note that the city is among a handful of municipalities where there is a low rate of nighttime pedestrian fatalities. Officials point to increased lighting in cities where pedestrians are safer during nighttime hours. Regardless of where you live though, officials say both pedestrians and drivers are equally negligent when it comes to one thing that is causing more crashes, avoiding distractions.
Distracted Walking Just as Dangerous as Distracted Driving
Earlier this year, it was reported that researchers suspect more pedestrians are killed and injured today due to the amount of distraction caused by smartphones and other mobile devices. Texting and driving have never been a great combination, and now safety officials say the same about texting and walking. Walking while texting is now pointed to as a key factor in the uptick in pedestrian deaths, especially in urban areas. This trend is becoming such a hazard that some cities are now banning the practice. And, it’s not just walkers in public who are getting hurt. The National Safety Council (NSC) notes that over half of those injured due to moving about while using their phone were hurt in their own homes.