A recent report from the Governors Highway Safety Association and published on NPR.com found that over 6,200 pedestrians died across the United States in collisions during 2018. This number is the highest number of pedestrian fatalities in the past three decades and represents a sharp increase in the number of deaths over the past ten years. This increase has been felt in both urban cities as well as in rural areas.
Factors Leading to the Increase in Pedestrian Deaths
There are several factors that might help explain the increase in pedestrian fatalities. Some of the states that saw an increase in pedestrian fatalities – Georgia, California, Texas, Arizona, and Florida – also experienced increases in population over the past years. Other potential contributing factors that could account include:
- Crosswalks that are placed too far away from one another, which may encourage jaywalking
- Streets that are designed to handle a large volume of traffic but are not “pedestrian-friendly” in that they do not have sufficient sidewalk space
- An increase in the number of light trucks and sports utility vehicles being sold and driven on roadways.
By far, though, the most concerning contributing factor to fatal pedestrian crashes is distracted driving and distracted walking. Both drivers of motor vehicles as well as those traveling on foot can easily become distracted and unaware of their surroundings through the use of smartphones and similar devices. Other activities can be distracting: applying makeup, eating and drinking, or even changing the radio dial can take a driver’s attention away from the road and increase the likelihood of a pedestrian crash.
Some evidence exists that the creation and enforcement of laws penalizing distracted driving may be useful in reducing the incidence of fatal pedestrian crashes. As a result, some states are contemplating new laws that would penalize drivers who engage in any type of distracted driving – not just using one’s phone
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