Pedestrian deaths spiked in 2016, distraction cited

The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) projects that 5,997 people were killed on foot previous year, which would be the highest number of pedestrian fatalities in more than two decades.

While traffic deaths were up overall, the deaths of pedestrians were increasing at a higher rate than deaths of vehicle occupants, suggesting that distracted drivers could be more unsafe to pedestrians than other drivers - or that pedestrians are putting themselves in harm's way more often.

But that's hard to prove: While the total number of miles driven or walked have only increased slightly, an increase in electronics use is "the only factor that seems to indicate a dramatic change in how people behave", report author Richard Retting said.

Gray agreed with the idea that technology usage could be the biggest factor behind why the number of pedestrian fatalities has gone up, despite countless campaigns to remind people about the dangers of texting and driving. The last time there were more than 40,000 fatalities in a single year was in 2007, just before the economy tanked.

Fifteen percent or 5,376 of the 35,092 traffic fatalities in 2015 were pedestrians, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. During the same time period, total traffic deaths increased only 6 percent.

"We can not look at distracted driving exclusively as an in-vehicle issue", said Kelly Nantel, a spokeswoman for the safety council. Now there's new evidence that, by drawing our attention away from where we're going, they're a danger on the sidewalks, too. In fact, only 18 percent of all pedestrian fatalities occurred there.

The safety association's 2017 report noted that a pedestrian had a blood alcohol content above 0.08 in 34 percent of fatal crashes. On the other hand, non-intersection travel lanes, like midblocks or on the highway, accounted for the vast majority of pedestrian fatalities-nearly 3 out of every 4.

The problem is greatest in large population states that have urban areas where people do a lot of walking.

Certainly we all have a responsibility to ourselves and our families to avoid taking unnecessary risks with our own lives.

  • Arturo Norris