Report Identifies Record-High Increase in Pedestrian Deaths

GHSA Report Finds Highest Spike in Pedestrian Deaths

Recent government statistics have shown that traffic fatalities are on the rise. Now, a new report released by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) sheds light on pedestrian deaths due to traffic events. The report, based on preliminary data from 2016, estimates that the number of pedestrian traffic deaths increased by 11 percent between 2015 and 2016. This is the largest single-year spike in pedestrian deaths in history. Nearly 6,000 pedestrians were killed in 2016, the highest in over two decades.

The personal injury attorneys at Parker Waichman LLP have decades of experience representing clients in lawsuits involving accidents. The firm continues to offer free legal consultations to individuals with questions about filing a pedestrian accident lawsuit.

Preliminary data indicates that 5,997 pedestrians died in 2016, compared with 5,376 in 2015 and 4,910 in 2014. From 2010 to 2015, pedestrian deaths increased by 25 percent. During the same time period, traffic deaths rose by about six percent. GHSA says pedestrians now comprise the largest proportion of traffic deaths recorded in the past 25 years.

“It is alarming,” said GHSA executive director Jonathan Adkins according to NPR, “and it’s counterintuitive.”

“There’s been an assumption that, because of increased safety of vehicles as we move toward semi-autonomous vehicles, that traffic deaths were going to go down,” said Adkins. “We’re seeing just the opposite, unfortunately, with a particular spike as it relates to pedestrians and cyclists.”

Recent statistics show that traffic deaths are rising on the whole. Last month, the National Safety Council reported that deaths on the road increased six percent nationwide in 2016. It would make sense that pedestrian deaths increase in accordance with this trend, said NSC spokeswoman Maureen Vogel. However, she and other safety experts were surprised by the sharp spike in pedestrian deaths compared to other traffic fatalities.

For the first six months of 2016, highway safety offices from all 50 states and the District of Columbia reported a total of 2,660 pedestrian deaths. Comparatively, there were 2,486 deaths for the same period in 2015.

Pedestrian fatalities increased by 22 percent from 2014 to 2016. Out of all traffic deaths, pedestrians make up 15 percent.

The report found that 34 states had increased pedestrian fatalities while 15 states and the District of Columbia had a decrease. One state reported no change in pedestrian deaths.

“This is the second year in a row that we have seen unprecedented increases in pedestrian fatalities, which is both sad and alarming,” said report author Richard Retting of Sam Schwartz Transportation Consultants. “It is critical that the highway safety community understand these disturbing statistics and work to aggressively implement effective countermeasures.”

The statistics were issued as part of the GHSA’s annual Spotlight on Highway Safety report.

Distraction, Speeding, Alcohol are Factors in Pedestrian Deaths

Vogel says the rise in pedestrian fatalities resulted from “a perfect storm” of factors, NPR reports. There are more cars on the road and people are also behind the wheel more often, but distractions by both pedestrians and drivers also play a role.

“We have noticed over the years increases in the number of injuries related to distracted walking — pedestrians being distracted by cellphones and then injuring themselves because of that distraction,” Vogel said, citing NSC data. “So it’s entirely possible that is at play, not just on our roadways but on our sidewalks.”

Melody Geraci, deputy executive director of Active Transportation Alliance, said “We are crazy distracted,”

“After speeding and the failure to yield, distractions are the number three cause [of pedestrian fatalities], particularly by electronic devices.” Active Transportation Alliance is a Chicago advocacy group that focuses on improved walking, cycling and public transportation options.

Distracted driving is clearly associated with increased accident rates, but distracted walking also results in pedestrian injuries. Individuals who are focused on their phones may fail to notice their surroundings. “We have noticed over the years increases in the number of injuries related to distracted walking — pedestrians being distracted by cellphones and then injuring themselves because of that distraction,” said Vogel, according to NPR. “So it’s entirely possible that is at play, not just on our roadways but on our sidewalks.”

Speeding drivers are an even bigger factor when it comes to pedestrian deaths, however. “Speed is a killer for sure,” comments Geraci, according to NPR. “If a pedestrian is struck at 20 miles an hour, they have a 10 percent chance of dying. If they are struck at 40 miles an hour, they have an 80 percent chance of dying.”

Some cities are considering a reduced speed limit to reduce pedestrian deaths and injuries. For example, New York City lowered its speed limit to 25 mph several years ago.

The GHSA report also found that pedestrian deaths were more likely to occur at night (74 percent) and most (72 percent) deaths do not occur when crossing the intersection.

Alcohol also plays a role in pedestrian deaths. Drunk drivers account for 15 percent of pedestrian fatalities each year. Furthermore, 34 percent of pedestrians who die in traffic incidents have a blood-alcohol (BAC) levels exceeding the 0.08 legal limit for driving.
“We’ve done a good job in highway safety in telling people that when you go out to the bar and you’re drunk, don’t get behind the wheel,” said Adkins. “But you should really be careful about walking, particularly if you’re walking at night, and you’re walking a distance. You’re not gonna have good judgment, a car’s not gonna see you … [so] don’t walk home at night when you’re hammered.”

The number of pedestrian deaths may be reduced if we implement better road designs, lower speed limits and construct more sidewalks, safety advocates say.

Legal Help for Pedestrians Injured in Traffic Accidents

Parker Waichman has decades of experience representing traffic accident victims. If you or someone you know was injured in a pedestrian accident, you may have valuable legal rights. Our personal injury attorneys offer free, no-obligation case evaluations. For more information, fill out our online form or call 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).

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