The last two years were the worst in recorded history for pedestrian deaths, according to a recent report. Nearly 6,000 pedestrians were killed by cars in 2016 – up from nearly 5,400 in 2015. Last year’s spike was the largest in the four decades since national traffic reporting became available, followed closely by the spike in 2015.
How does Pennsylvania compare to other states? We ranked in the middle of the pack, with a fatality rate lower than the national average. Nonetheless, pedestrian deaths still remain a major concern.
Why the increase?
This upward trend, while alarming, is at least partly due to increased traffic on the roads. Yet that isn’t the only explanation.
Distraction is a major contributing factor. Now more than ever before, drivers and pedestrians alike have their noses glued to screens. We’re busy talking on cellphones, texting, using apps to navigate, listening to music – all things that take our attention away from what’s going on around us.
In addition to this decreased situational awareness, significant factors include:
- Alcohol intoxication
- Poor visibility (especially at night)
- Aggressive driving
- Confusing intersections
- Inadequate sidewalks
- Poorly marked crosswalks
- Dangerous road design
What can be done about it
The only way to fix the problem is to address it at both individual and systemic levels. Whenever you’re walking in traffic, stay safe by:
- Eliminating distractions
- Using caution in crosswalks, even though you have the right-of-way
- Watching for turning vehicles (especially those turning left)
- Wearing reflective clothing or carrying a light when walking after dark
Infrastructure improvements can also play a big role in reducing pedestrian deaths. Elements that help make the roads safer include:
- High-visibility crosswalks with flashing beacons
- Well-buffered sidewalks
- Brighter street lights
- Strategic overpasses/underpasses
- Speed bumps and reduced speed limits
- “Share the road” signs
- Dedicated left-turn signals
With a growing awareness of pedestrian-focused engineering, we may be able to reverse the trend of preventable fatalities.