Pedestrian deaths are increasing at the fastest rate ever recorded. The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) has estimated a 10 percent increase in the number of pedestrians killed in traffic crashes in 2015 from the prior year. This first look at 2015 pedestrian fatality trends is based on preliminary data reported by highway safety agencies in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
The GHSA suggests that many factors could be contributing to this spike in pedestrian deaths, such as an increase in travel combined with growing cell phone use among both walkers and drivers. Further, as motor vehicles become increasingly safe for occupants, or “crashworthy,” pedestrians remain just as susceptible to injury when hit by a vehicle.
“We are today a nation of distracted drivers and distracted walkers,” said Anapol Weiss Partner and End Distracted Driving (EndDD.org) Founder Joel Feldman in a Legal Examiner article. “It is routine to see others looking at their phones while walking in hallways, on sidewalks and while crossing busy intersections…. Until final numbers are calculated and crash reports are reviewed, we won’t know for sure how much of the increase in pedestrian fatalities is related to distracted driving and/or distracted walking. But some of that increase is assuredly related to distraction.”
Joel poses the question: “How can we reduce pedestrian deaths?” Several of the 150 8th graders in Biddeford Middle school in Maine told Joel during his recent EndDD.org presentation that, “…we must never assume that since we as pedestrians have the right of way, that drivers will stop, and that we should assume that all drivers are distracted — and don’t cross the street until we have made eye contact with the driver.”
GHSA asked its state members to share strategies underway to reduce pedestrian-related accidents. Some promising approaches include:
- Targeted traffic enforcement and public information campaigns
- Data analysis and mapping to identify high-risk zones
- Community-based pedestrian and road safety assessments
- Strategic partnerships with universities and other organizations
As the number of Americans walking for health, economic or environmental reasons continues to increase, now is the time for states to develop ways to ensure drivers and pedestrians alike follow the rules of the road, so everyone arrives at their destination safely.