From 1979 through 2009, the number of fatal pedestrian incidents dropped from a high of 8,096 to a low point of 4,109. The numbers then began to climb back up. There are likely multiple factors at play in the rise, but everyone seems to now agree that a big part of the issue is SUVs. Deadly pedestrian incidents involving SUVs rose by 81 percent. The reason is there are simply more of these large vehicles on the road than there were in the past. Consumers are opting for larger, taller vehicles over sedans, and the results are proving deadly for those struck by automobiles.
SUVs are not just bigger than cars; they have high and flat front ends. When one of these vehicles strikes a pedestrian, they hit that person on their head or chest and cause more severe injuries.
Another factor is that wide roads in the suburbs were made for cars, not foot traffic. As population sizes grow in these areas, people are becoming more likely to get struck by fast-moving vehicles.
An additional common culprit is the smartphone. Not only are drivers looking at their phones, but pedestrians are too. As a nation, we all tend to be a little less focused on our immediate surroundings. While data proving this theory is limited, the rise in these devices matches a rise in pedestrian deaths.
Reducing these tragic accidents means improving infrastructure and law enforcement. New York may have reduced deaths in part because the state takes driver distraction very seriously. Manufacturers could also help the issue by designing improved headlights.
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