Walking may seem like a safe, environmentally-friendly, and healthy way to get from one place to another.
However, the Governors Highway Safety Association's (GHSA) recently released new statistics from its Spotlight on Pedestrian Traffic Fatalities report, which may cause some people to rethink their daily stroll.
More than 5,370 pedestrians were killed in traffic accidents in 2015 alone, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This works out to approximately one accident-related pedestrian death every 90 minutes or so.
These statistics are grim, but they pale in comparison to those included in the GHSA's latest report, which noted a staggering 11 percent increase in pedestrian deaths from 2015 to 2016, and a 22 percent increase since 2014. Not only does this represent the most significant increase in pedestrian fatalities to date, it also marks the highest number of pedestrian deaths in more than 20 years.
So, what's behind the sharp uptick in pedestrian fatalities and how do we turn the tide? Some safety experts suggest that distraction may be the cause and, as with many traffic safety issues, preventative measures may be most effective in bringing these numbers down.
If you or someone you loves walks as a primary mode of transportation, here's what you need to know.
In recent years, safety organizations have worked hard to spread awareness of the dangers of driving while distracted. While most people now know that doing so can lead to catastrophic car and truck accidents, not many realize walking while distracted can also be hazardous.
Any behavior or activity that takes a driver's focus away from safely piloting the vehicle, or a pedestrian's focus away from safely crossing the road, can be considered a dangerous distraction. Common distractions include: daydreaming, eating or drinking, and changing music, whether on a vehicle stereo or an MP3 player.
However, the most significant source of distraction for both motorists and pedestrians are cell phones and smartphones. The rise in the ubiquitousness of mobile phones and other electronic devices aligns closely with the rise in pedestrian fatalities. In fact, cell phone distraction has become such a large problem that in 2015, for the first time ever, the National Safety Council (NSC) added statistics on cell phone distracted walking injuries to its annual Injury Facts report. According to that report, distracted walking incidents resulted in a shocking 11,100 injuries between 2000 and 2011.
Who's Most at Risk?
Research on pedestrian fatalities suggests that some demographics, as well as people with certain vices, may be more likely to be involved in pedestrian accidents than others. For example, in 2015, nearly 20 percent of the people killed in pedestrian accidents were 65 or older; this same age group accounted for 13 percent of those injured in pedestrian accidents. Children and adolescent pedestrians are also at risk, as one out of every five people under 15 who died in traffic accidents in 2015 were killed while walking.
Additionally, alcohol impairment—whether on the part of the motorist or pedestrian—was a factor in nearly 50 percent of fatal pedestrian accidents.
Pedestrian Safety Tips
The next time you're traveling as a pedestrian, use these simple tips to help ensure you arrive at your destination safely:
- Look both ways before crossing the street.
- Only cross at crosswalks, where motorists are trained to watch for pedestrians.
- Wear bright or reflective clothing when walking at night.
- Avoid using cell phones or wearing headphones.
- Walk on the sidewalk facing oncoming traffic, and make eye contact with drivers to ensure they see you.
Were You Injured in an Accident?
If you were injured in an accident caused by a distracted pedestrian or motorist, you may be able to pursue compensation for your injuries and other damages. Contact McGartland Law today to schedule a free initial consultation to discuss the details of your case with an experienced legal professional.