The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently released a report on the subject of pedestrian deaths. The report, prepared by the National Center for Statistics and Analysis, found that there were some 4,280 pedestrian deaths in 2010, a number which represents a 4% increase from 2009. The report broken down exactly where the fatalities took place and what kinds of people were most at risk of dying. However, the report did not go very far to explain why the number of deaths is on the rise.
Advocates for walking claim the numbers from the NHTSA don’t tell the whole story. They point to a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control which said that almost two thirds of Americans are now taking regular walks, walks at least one 10-minutes long once a week, and that this group increased by six percent since 2005. So it’s possible that the increase in deaths has more to do with an increase in the total number of people out walking around. It’s clear that better data is needed to help explain what’s going on.
The NHTSA data was able to show that despite the recent upswing, the nearly 5,000 deaths in 2010 represented a 13% decrease from 2001. Seventy-two percent of all deaths occurred in an urban setting. Surprising to some, is that 80% of all those killed died in non-intersection locations. A number which highlights the danger of walking at night is the 68% who were killed after dark. One contributing factor to the pedestrian deaths appears to be alcohol, with 1/3 of those who died reported to have been under the influence of alcohol.
Again, walking advocates point out that drunk drivers represent a bigger danger to pedestrians than pedestrians who have been drinking. While it is everyone’s responsibility to be safe and aware of their surroundings, pedestrians would not be at such great a risk if drivers were not driving at such high speeds in such heavy cars with so little regard for those around them. For instance, speed is a critical factor in terms of pedestrian safety. If an automobile is going 20 miles per hour, the average person walking has a 90 percent chance of surviving.
One of the groups advocating for those on foot, Transportation for America, released its own report back in 2011 saying that pedestrian deaths are the result of the national neglect of pedestrian safety in policy and road design. The report correctly pointed out that most pedestrians die on major roadways that were designed for speeding cars and have no place for those on foot or on bicycles. The increasing tendency to move traffic to major thoroughfares with shopping, dining and other important attractions are often built with little or no consideration given to pedestrians. Space is often dedicated to more lanes while crosswalks, sidewalks and bike lanes are merely an afterthought.
Rather than lay blame at the feet of pedestrians, it may be better for the NHTSA to look more closely at what can be done to encourage a safer driving environment for everyone. Drivers have an enormous responsibility for the safety of pedestrians given the size and speed of vehicles and their capacity to cause serious and sometimes fatal injuries. If you have been injured and think you may have a personal injury claim, please contact the Mississippi auto accident lawyers atKobs & Philley at (601) 856-7800.
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