Pedestrian accident deaths have been a significant issue in Florida for decades. This is largely a result of our streets being designed primarily for motor vehicle traffic – wide roads, high speed limits and few safe spaces to walk or opportunities to cross.
But it’s increasingly becoming a major problem on a national scale.
The new Spotlight on Highway Safety Report, released by the Governors’ Highway Safety Association (GHSA), reveals the pedestrian fatality count for 2015 (when it’s released) is expected to have increased 10 percent over 2014. That would be the largest year-over-year increase since national records have been kept.
As researchers put it, “We are quite alarmed.”
The Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) was established in 1975.
Study authors reached their conclusion after analyzing FARS data for the first six months of 2015, compared to the first six months of 2014. What they discovered was that during the first half of last year, 2,638 people on foot lost their lives in traffic accidents. They then compared that to the 2,232 pedestrians who were killed in 2014.
In addition to the fact that more pedestrians are dying, they are now representing a larger share of the overall traffic fatalities. They now account for 15 percent of all motor vehicle deaths across the country. That’s compared to 11 percent 10 years ago.
As far as why this is occurring, researchers have a few theories:
- An increase in motor vehicle travel. This is driven at least in some part by better economic conditions and reduced gas prices.
- The growing use of smartphones, which has greatly increased driver distraction. One new study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) shows drivers are distracted more than half of their time behind the wheel – largely due to cell phone use – and that distraction now plays a role in 70 percent of all car accidents. Where the U.S. was once the safest for passengers, pedestrians and cyclists in the modern world, we are now ranked 17th out of 29 – a status that changed just in the last 15 years.
- Aggressive drivers. Speeding. Tailgating. Cutting off other drivers. Almost everyone is seemingly in a hurry. Failure to follow basic traffic safety standards is costing us dearly on the roads.
- More Americans are walking for health, environmental or economic reasons. This is a big part of the reason why we must be committed to “Complete Streets” and other initiatives that focus on the creation of safe, walkable routes.
It’s also imperative that drivers be educated on the rules and their own responsibilities where pedestrians are concerned. Pedestrians are vulnerable road users, and are at great risk if struck by a vehicle – even at low speeds.
Researchers also blamed a practice called “forgiving road signs.” This is a roadway engineering practice that involves using highway design standards for urban areas. In the long-term, this is going to inevitably increase pedestrian death rates.
More pedestrian crashes tend to occur in states with large urban areas. That’s why Florida, California and New York accounted for 42 percent of all pedestrian deaths in the first half of 2015. Of the seven states with the highest rate of pedestrian accident deaths per 100,000, Florida was near the top of the pile.
Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.
Pedestrian Fatalities Projected to Spike 10% in 2015, March 8, 2016, GHSA
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