‘Tis is the season, and as Christmas approaches, more and more people will be walking busy streets and overcrowded parking lots as they complete their holiday shopping. While walking is a great, healthy alternative to driving, pedestrians need to be aware of the dangers they face and take steps to keep themselves safe as they walk down city streets, in parking lots, and in their own neighborhoods.
Increased Pedestrian Accident Fatalities
The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) released an in-depth study that highlights just how dangerous walking has become. According to the study, pedestrian fatalities increased 25 percent from 2010 – 2015. Just last year, nearly 6000 pedestrians were killed, 620 more people killed than in 2015. Colorado is not exempt when it comes to walkers killed in accidents. Last year, 84 Coloradans died, a nearly 14 percent increase from the year before. Even in the final month of 2017, the state has already noted 79 pedestrian deaths. So, what is causing this increase? Authorities point to several factors including economic conditions, fuel prices, distractions on both the part of the walker and the driver, and alcohol consumption as factors when it comes to pedestrian fatalities.
Because gas prices have been lower than normal, more vehicles are on the road, which can increase the chances of a pedestrian accident. When it comes to economics, more people are walking as an alternative to driving because according to the American Automobile Association, you can save up to $8500 per year if you put the car keys down and walk. As AAA noted, upkeep and gas for a vehicle are expensive while walking is free. When it comes to both vehicle drivers and pedestrians, two key factors impact both groups: distractions and alcohol.
Pedestrians Must Put Away Mobile Devices and Drink Responsibly
Distracted driving remains a major issue when it comes to road safety, but today there is also the phenomenon of distracted walking. According to the National Safety Council, more pedestrians are now walking while looking down at their phone, thus completely oblivious to their surroundings. The habit people have of walking and texting has become a huge issue as those texting are running into other pedestrians causing injury, running into something themselves, tripping or even worse, crossing the street without properly checking for oncoming vehicles.
Another equally concerning issue is alcohol consumption by both pedestrians and drivers. According to the latest study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 48 percent of 2015 pedestrian fatalities involved alcohol. When it came to the blood alcohol concentration (BAC), 34 percent of pedestrians killed in crashes had a BAC of .08 or higher, which is considered legally drunk. Drivers were also cited as being drunk in 15 percent of pedestrian crashes.
Current Strategies to Increase Pedestrian Safety
Authorities across the country continue to look for ways to keep pedestrians safe. Some strategies that are already being pursued include:
- Increasing the distance between walkers and motorists by developing more overpasses or underpasses, especially at busy intersections or along extremely busy streets.
- Updating pedestrian signals at crosswalks to include increasing crossing time or adding a countdown clock to signal how many seconds you have until it’s no longer safe to cross.
- Improving street lighting to make it easier for drivers to see pedestrians and for walkers to see vehicles.
All improvements are welcomed, but authorities also note that people walking must also do their part to stay safe. Pedestrians need to put their phone away, remain alert and notice their surroundings, refrain from walking if they’ve had too much to drink, and always follow all pedestrian laws.