A newly published study by the Governor’s Highway Safety Association, a not-for-profit comprised of the highway safety offices of the 50 states, better known as the organization behind the click-it or ticket campaign, is suggesting that pedestrian deaths in motor vehicle incidents are at a ten year high. The numbers seem to match the claim. Incidents of pedestrian deaths in car crashes are up while other traffic deaths are declining. Therefore, the percentage of traffic fatalities involving pedestrians now comprises a larger percentage than before. These are the worst numbers since 1990.
Bigger Cars Means More Damage
The study links the fact that there are more SUVs on the road now than before as a possible cause of the increase in fatalities. A heavier vehicle has the potential of causing greater damage than a smaller passenger car like a sedan. Pedestrian deaths involving SUVs went up 50% between 2013 and 2017.
Vehicle trends are definitely changing. People want bigger cars. Automakers are responding in kind, limiting their offerings for smaller cars in the US. For people with families, purchasing a small car or a sedan is an unlikely choice. People also feel safer in bigger cars. The perception is that larger vehicles offer greater crash safety protection. As other categories of motor vehicle crash deaths decrease, it gets harder to argue against that conclusion.
There Are More Nighttime Crashes Too
The study points to other factors as well. Nighttime crash deaths are increasing. Pedestrian deaths seem to be increasing in numerous categories. When the publishers looked at nighttime vs. daytime fatalities, instances at night were up 45% from 2008 to 2017, whereas daytime instances went up by 11%.
Any premature loss of life is tragic. Pedestrians and drivers alike would be well served by keeping an eye out for one another as both groups certainly have the right to travel using surface streets. It’s common sense that anyone who goes anywhere should try and take proper safety precautions. However, the study also looks at population growth as a factor contributing to these alarming statistics. With increasingly bigger cars and more people in a given town, there could be more opportunities where drivers and people on foot will encounter one another, meaning the more that people proceed with caution when going from place to place, the better.
We Need to Pay Attention to Distracted Driving
One more possible factor contributing to this increase in pedestrian traffic deaths is people not paying attention to the road or where they are going. We certainly have an increasing number of big cars out on the road, but we also have more electronic devices. Screen time has significantly increased since 2008.
Consumers were first introduced to the iPhone in June of 2007. Since then, the image of a person with their eyes glued to a tiny screen has become ever present. If you ever look around at the drivers next to you when you’re stopped at a red light, unfortunately, it won’t be uncommon for one of those people to be holding up a smartphone.
The evidence against allowing drivers to use handheld electronics is mounting. Illinois, among other states, has passed stricter rules regarding the use of mobile devices behind the wheel. Some researchers have equated using a smartphone while driving as similar to being drunk and getting behind the wheel. Both have been shown to slow down reaction times and decrease our ability to focus on what’s going on outside our windshields. Just think of your own experiences. If you have ever missed a turn because you were having a conversation with a passenger, imagine how poorly you drive trying to send a text message.
The one thing we all have control over is the use of our phones. Whether you are a pedestrian or a driver, there can be no debate – if you’re looking at a screen, you are not looking where you are going. If you need to check your phone, the best thing to do is go to a safe place. If you’re driving, find a safe place to pull over. If you’re walking, find a safe place to stop. When it comes to injuries or death, none should be the result of smartphone distraction.