According to the Governor’s Highway Safety Association (GHSA), the number of pedestrians killed in the United States has been increasing steadily for over a decade. Experts expect this trend to continue, particularly owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has prompted the closure of gyms and other indoor recreational facilities. As more people turn to walking and jogging for exercise, motorists and pedestrians alike can benefit from heightened awareness of pedestrian safety precautions.
No one is exactly sure what is causing the decade-long rise in pedestrian deaths. Experts theorize that there may be several factors involved, including the following:
There were 6,590 U.S. pedestrian deaths in 2019, representing a five percent increase from 2018. In addition to the rise in pedestrian fatalities across the country, the GHSA is currently predicting a pedestrian fatality rate of 2.0 per 100,000 population for 2020, representing the highest pedestrian fatality rate in the U.S. since 1997. The state of Pennsylvania is not immune to this deadly trend. In 2018, Pennsylvania recorded one of the highest pedestrian fatality counts in the U.S., ranking seventh nationwide.
Information from various safety organizations, including the Association for Safe International Road Travel (ASIRT), indicate that there are more pedestrians now than before the Coronavirus became widespread in March. Several factors can be cited to explain why the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted more people to walk, including the following:
Approximately 45 million people in the U.S. pay for gym memberships. In many states, gyms have been closed for some time. Those that are open typically require the use of face masks and social distancing, which significantly alters group fitness classes and socializing in the locker room. Fewer people are venturing to reopened gyms, leading several large chains to file for bankruptcy, including 24-Hour Fitness and Gold’s Gym. However, people still need to exercise.
Guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encourages people to walk outside. Americans appear to be following that advice and are taking to the streets, sidewalks, and parks. In addition, employees who were either laid off, given reduced hours, or told to work from home have more time to go outside. City dwellers who previously used public transportation to go across town are shunning crowded spaces and opting to walk when they can. Many cities have also permanently closed some streets to motor vehicle traffic, encouraging use by pedestrians and bicyclists, according to an article published by Yale University. New York City has banned motor vehicles from approximately 50 miles of streets and plans to double that amount going forward. Philadelphia, Denver, and Minneapolis are also looking into similar initiatives.
Pedestrians may be facing greater risks today from auto accidents, even though there are less drivers on the road. During the first three months of 2020, there was an 88 percent increase in pedestrian fatalities in Philadelphia compared to the year before, according to the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia.
The GHSA notes that there has been an increase in speeding and reckless driving since the pandemic began. Some drivers on the road seem more impatient than before the pandemic, possibly owing to frustration of being under lockdown restrictions for so long. In a review of motor vehicle and pedestrian accidents in Philadelphia, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia identified several ways in which city traffic can present deadly risks to pedestrians, including the following:
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) conducted studies to determine the most common scenarios in which pedestrian fatalities occur, listed in order of frequency:
Collectively, these scenarios account for more than 90 percent of fatal pedestrian accidents. The NHTSA has reviewed these scenarios as part of a plan to develop pedestrian detection systems. Other initiatives for reducing the number of pedestrian fatalities include slow zones, which use speed bumps and other road design features to slow down speeding vehicles.
Pedestrians can help avoid serious accidents by adhering to the adage to see and be seen, which includes the following:
Wherever possible, walkers should use paths, trails, and sidewalks instead of the street. If that is not possible, it is best to walk facing oncoming traffic.
The risk of contracting COVID-19 is present no matter the location. The following are a few additional guidelines that pedestrians can follow to stay safe during the pandemic:
Walking outside is one of the best forms of exercise, especially during a time when citizens are being asked to practice social distancing to slow the spread of COVID-19. Following simple precautions can help pedestrians avoid accidents while enjoying the outdoors.
When serious accidents occur, the Philadelphia personal injury lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP bring more than seven decades of experience and knowledge to help injured clients rebuild their lives and regain their health and well-being. If you were injured and are seeking qualified legal representation, we invite you to call us at 800-222-8792 or contact us online. We are equipped to conduct free virtual consultations during the pandemic to ensure your safety. We take pride providing the highest level of service to our clients. Our offices are located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, Pennsylvania to serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey, including Allentown and Harrisburg.