Drivers aren’t the only ones whose cell phone distractions are leading to deaths and injuries in auto accidents. Pedestrians who fixate on phones have helped spike pedestrian fatalities by an added 11 per cent in the last year. The Governors Highway Safety Association, a non-profit group of state highway safety offices, recently reported the 11 per cent jump in pedestrian deaths. A GHSA study showed 2,660 pedestrian deaths in the first half of 2016, following 2,486 such deaths in the first half of 2015. Full-year statistics for 2016 are not yet available. The GHSA based its 11 per cent increase for 2016 on an extrapolation of figures. This showed around 6,000 people dying as pedestrians last year. By contrast, 4,280 American pedestrians were killed back in 2010, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The NHTSA also says about three-fourths of pedestrian deaths occur in urban areas. Pedestrian fatalities in 2015 also rose: by about 10 per cent over 2014. That means pedestrian deaths last year were more than 20 per cent higher than those two years earlier. Previously, it took five years for such a jump. The GHSA says pedestrian deaths rose by 19 per cent between 2009 and 2014. At that same time, overall traffic fatalities dropped by 4 per cent. In sheer numbers, between 2010 and 2015, America had 28,642 pedestrians hit and killed by vehicles. As the problem worsens, the GHSA says pedestrians now account for 15 per cent of all traffic fatalities and are the largest proportion of traffic deaths in the past 25 years.
Phones Aren’t Only Cause of Pedestrian Deaths
Cell phone distractions aren’t the only cause of pedestrian deaths rising in the U.S., the GHSA says. Also contributing are two main factors: more persons walk for health reasons and to aid the environment, and more vehicles are on roadways because of lower gas prices. Even so, the GHSA study emphasizes that smartphone usage is a dangerous distraction for people on foot, and not just for those behind the wheel. Like drivers, pedestrians focus on their phones to talk, text or browse social media. Unlike drivers, who may have music playing on their car’s speakers, pedestrians often wear headphones to listen to music from their phone, which tends to make them even more oblivious to their surroundings.
Smartphones Make Pedestrians Stupid
In short, smartphones are making pedestrians stupid. Many YouTube videos have jokingly shown people walking into walls or stepping into mall fountains while staring at their cell phones. But when pedestrians walk heedlessly into the street and are hit by cars, it’s no laughing matter. Kara Macek, Senior Director of Communications and Programs for GHSA, told NBC News that Americans’ “frenzied need to stay in touch on our smartphones is certainly a contributing factor to a lot of these fatalities.” She said it is “just as important to disconnect from time to time” as it is to connect with others via cell phones.
Texas Pedestrian Deaths High
In Texas, pedestrian deaths are high, as they are in California, New York and Florida. All are populous states, combining for one third of the nation’s entire population. But their rate of pedestrian deaths is even higher, with a combined 42 percent of all such fatalities. Yet tiny Delaware had the most pedestrian fatalities per capita in 2016. Next were Florida, Arizona, South Carolina and New Mexico.
Safety Measures to Decrease Pedestrian Deaths
Many states, including Texas, are adopting safety measures to decrease pedestrian deaths. Last year, Texas A&M University received funds for a study of pedestrian safety when people are stranded on a highway, perhaps due to engine failure of their vehicle. The state also launched a peer-to-peer program called Deterring Distracted Walking Among Youth. Initial pilot programs were held in San Antonio middle schools and high schools. The GHSA also advises state and local governments to take these safety steps for pedestrians:
Add more refuge islands on busy streets
Add more pedestrian overpasses under streets or pedestrian tunnels beneath them
Add more traffic signals and street lighting
Make crosswalks more visible and provide flashing beacons at crosswalks
Add more speed bumps and curb extensions to slow down traffic
Add more median barricades to cut down jaywalking
For safety tips which pedestrians can observe, see an earlier Jim Adler blog post. Many experts say the best advice to combat the alarming rise in pedestrian deaths is simple: Put away the phone while walking.
Distracted Driving Also Kills
But drivers also are to blame for pedestrian fatalities. Distracted driving due to cell phone use has killed thousands of motorists, passengers and pedestrians in recent years. If someone in your family was injured or killed by a vehicle while walking, notify an experienced Texas pedestrian accident lawyer with Jim Adler & Associates. Contact us today and get a free legal review of your case.