The Governors Highway Safety Association reports that 250 more pedestrians were killed in accidents in 2018 than in 2017. The 6,227 pedestrian fatalities in 2018 represent an increase of 51.5% since 2009 when 4,109 pedestrians were killed. This is the highest number of pedestrian fatalities in 30 years since the high of 6,482 deaths in 1990.
In 2017, the number of pedestrian deaths fell by 2%, but that brief trend reversed and pedestrian deaths started climbing again in 2018. Analysts have identified several things that could be contributing factors to making the roads more dangerous.
More Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) on the Road
People are drawn to SUVs because of their convenient spaciousness and their aesthetics, but many people buy SUVs because they feel more protected on the road. While drivers may feel safer behind the wheel of an SUV, pedestrians aren’t as safe when they are hit by one of these heavy vehicles. When an SUV hits a pedestrian, that individual is twice as likely to die as they are after being hit by a sedan.
In 2018, passenger vehicles were responsible for the most pedestrian deaths, but the number of SUVs involved in these fatalities has increased by 50% over the last five years; compare that to the number of deaths caused by passenger cars, which has only increased by 30%. The increase in SUV-related fatalities mirrors an increase in the number of SUVs on the road. These roomy vehicles have become the bestselling style of vehicle. In fact, SUVs and trucks now account for 60% of all automobile sales.
More Pedestrians on the Road
While more and more people are buying SUVs, others are taking a more fuel-efficient approach to life by embracing walking. Between 2007 and 2016, the number of people who have walked to work in the last week increased by 4%. Additionally, the sheer density of people in many urban areas correlates to an increase in pedestrian fatalities. For instance, the 10 states with the most population growth between 2017 and 2018 all saw an average increase of 5% in pedestrian fatalities through the first half of 2018.
Increased Nighttime Walking
Almost all (90%) of the increase in pedestrian deaths happened at night. Drivers can’t see as well as night, and often, they tend to be driving while drowsy or even while intoxicated. Sadly, half of all pedestrian fatalities involved impaired drivers or pedestrians.
Some areas have taken action against these deaths and have successfully reduced pedestrian fatalities. In particular, New York City has a Vision Zero program. The city wants to reduce pedestrian deaths to zero so that crossing the street on foot doesn’t come with a potential death sentence. To that end, New York City has reduced speed limits and encouraged expanded law enforcement against traffic violations, including failure to yield to pedestrians. Because of programs like that and increased driver awareness, the pedestrian fatality rate has actually fallen by 15% in the country’s 10 biggest cities.
Rising Smartphone Usage
Approximately 3,166 people died in accidents caused by distracted drivers, according to The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That number includes drivers, passengers, and pedestrians, but unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of data related to how distracted driving in general and smartphone use in particular affects pedestrian fatalities. However, as smartphone usage has increased, so too have pedestrian fatalities; analysts assume a connection.
Between 2010 and 2017, smartphone use increased five-fold. At the same time, wireless data consumption increased by 4,000%. That means that smartphone users consume 40 times more data now than they did just seven years ago.
Additionally, the number of people who talk on a cell phone regularly while driving has increased by 46% since 2013. About half of these people used a hand-held (rather than a hands-free) phone while driving and over a third of them admitted to texting while operating a vehicle. AAA claims that talking on the phone increases your chance of getting into an accident by four times, and texting makes you eight times more likely to crash.
Get Help After a Pedestrian Fatality
Pedestrian fatalities are almost never an accident. In most cases, they are caused by driver negligence. If you or a loved one has been hurt or injured while crossing a road, standing on the sidewalk, riding your bike, or doing a range of other pedestrian activities, you deserve help.
At Mazow | McCullough, PC, we work with people after a range of car accidents and personal injuries. To learn more about your options and to set up a no-cost case evaluation, contact us today.