Nearly 30,000 pedestrians died through 2010 and 2015, and all as a consequence of being hit by vehicles on roadways. The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) notes that pedestrians make up 15% of all traffic fatalities annually. With numbers as high as these, it is clear that not enough preventative and protective measures are being taken across the country to protect pedestrians adequately.
Even worse, although the GHSA has not been able to compile the 2016 pedestrian fatalities fully, preliminary reports indicate that the number of deaths has gone up by more than 10% from the year before. In 2015 alone, almost 6,000 pedestrians died after being hit by cars. The GHSA’s initial report counted pedestrian fatalities from 2010 to 2015, and the association’s new data indicates that in the last two years, the number of pedestrian deaths steadily continues to climb.
Some contributing factors to this increase are the amount of distracted driving accidents, in which drivers are texting or speaking on their cell phones while behind the wheel. Another contributor is that gas prices have gone down and the economy has improved, so there are more drivers on national roadways. As always, speeding and drunk driving are clear targets for unsafe and illegal behaviors that often result in fatalities.
Distraction is not just a serious safety issue for people behind the wheel of a car, but also for people walking. Many fatal accidents have occurred because a pedestrian is on their smart phone, not keeping their eye on the road or cars in the vicinity. The lesson here for drivers and people walking alike is that it is not safe to be distracted by phones while operating a vehicle or crossing trafficked streets. Phones make it more difficult for people to pay attention to their surroundings, and the consequences are often deadly.
Out of every five pedestrian fatalities, only one occurs at an intersection. The majority of pedestrian accidents instead occur in spaces that are designated for vehicles, such as undesignated crossing areas. Fatal accidents most commonly occur at nighttime in these spaces. This data points to the fact that when drivers have less visibility and less of an expectation that someone will be crossing a street in front of them, the chances of an accident go up. In other words, the lower the expectation of having to stop for someone, perhaps the chances of stopping in time go down.
There is much that can be done to help decrease pedestrian fatalities. State or federally funded education would help to increase people’s awareness on precautionary safety measures and help to limit the amount of deadly driving practices, such as driving while distracted, driving under the influence and speeding. Increasing law enforcement and financial consequences for these behaviors could also help to decrease fatalities. A final recommendation from the GHSA is to make national engineering changes, such as putting in more pedestrian crosswalks.
There are other measures that states and localities could take to save the lives of pedestrians. Amongst these are pedestrian overpasses and tunnels, more traffic signals and street lights, flashing beacons at crosswalks and the construction of refuge islands on trafficked streets so that pedestrians are not standing out in the street itself when they have to wait to continue crossing.
Lastly, safety experts believe that with the upcoming, larger-scale introduction of autonomous vehicles, or “robot cars” that do not require human drivers to operate, that pedestrian fatalities and accidents in general will most likely largely decrease. Researchers in the field estimate a decrease of over 1 million motor vehicle deaths annually, though at this point in time this number is merely a hopeful assertion. Only time will tell if autonomous vehicles will help to save the lives of pedestrians. For now, we hope that states take their responsibility to protect people seriously and increase preventative measures aimed at lowering the number of pedestrian fatalities annually.
If you, a family member or friend has been injured, please call the knowledgeable Philadelphia personal injury attorneys at Galfand Berger, LLP. With offices located in Philadelphia, Reading and Bethlehem, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. To schedule a consultation, call us at 800-222-8792 or complete our online contact form.