Pedestrian Deaths on the Increase
Last year we shared an important blog – Broward County is Dangerous for Pedestrians & Bicyclists. This year the news doesn’t get better. A new study by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) shows an 11 percent increase in the number of pedestrians killed in 2016 on U.S. roadways.
According to the GHSA pedestrians now account for the largest proportion of traffic fatalities recorded in the past 25 years. 2016 data reports almost 6000 pedestrian deaths. The majority of accidents have occurred in travel lanes (72%), followed by intersections (18%), and non-travel lanes such as shoulders and driveways (10%).
Florida followed Delaware with the second most pedestrian deaths per capita. You heard that right – Florida is number two in the nation. The study stated that 3.12 pedestrians died out of every 100,000 people in Florida. The report is based on preliminary data from the first six months of 2016 extrapolated to the full year.
Many experts believe the rise is due to an increase in drivers as a result of a better economy and lower fuel prices. Cities and towns continue to promote a healthier lifestyle with green cities offering more walking and biking paths. There are still many distracted drivers and distracted pedestrians using smartphones. Some believe dangerous road design is a factor. Another factor in pedestrian deaths is alcohol.
There are many efforts underway to try and reduce pedestrian fatalities and accidents. Many cities are increasing strategies to separate pedestrians from motor vehicles. This is being done by improving traffic signals and adding countdown clocks, creating new sidewalks and pedestrian overpasses / underpasses and adding medians and barriers to decrease j-walking routes. Traffic engineers are also adding more roundabouts, speed bumps, and traffic calming efforts to slow traffic down.
Other measures include making pedestrians more visible to drivers with improved street lighting, visible crosswalks, and rectangular rapid-flashing beacons mounted to pedestrian crossing signs.
Some cities are even looking at new technology to help keep pedestrians safe. This includes lighted flashing LED warning lights where the lights activate and blink when a pedestrian enters a crosswalk. Others are looking at lasers on the ground at crosswalks for distracted pedestrians to see red (don’t walk) and green (walk), and to warn cars not to drive through. There are also many public education programs like Share the Road, Complete Streets, and Vision Zero, and campaigns to stop distracted driving and increase DUI awareness.
It’s a problem whose solution requires both pedestrians and drivers to pay attention to what they are doing and remove all distractions, including putting smartphones away.