Pedestrians injured by motor vehicles increased by 19 percent from last year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s latest data. The rise is due to multiple factors including roadway design and lack of traffic enforcement. The most important factor responsible for the increase in pedestrian accidents is distraction caused by walking or driving while using a hand-held device. Texting, talking on a cellphone, or checking email can act as blinders to your environment and cause a serious accident.
“But there is, by now, a number of studies that indicate that pedestrian distraction is real,” said professor of environmental psychology Richard Wener from the Polytechnic Institute of New York University. “It’s very much like driving a car and being on a cellphone. You’re much more likely to miss something around you…The likelihood of an accident being really bad or fatal is higher when you’re not protected by 2 tons of steel.”
Poor roadway design, a long-time culprit in pedestrian injury cases, remains an area of concern for experts. Roads are being built wider for increased traffic. With more people living in suburban areas and wider roads to accommodate traffic, accidents involving pedestrians continue to increase. Areas that have missing sidewalks, no safe crossings, poor lighting and no enforcement of traffic rules for pedestrians also increase risk of pedestrian injury.
But by far the most dangerous factor threatening pedestrians is alcohol consumption. Drunk drivers and pedestrians were involved in 48 percent of fatalities, the NHTSA reports. Trying to be safe by walking instead of driving while drunk is not the solution. If you have had one too many, you should call a cab or a friend who can safely get you home.
The NHTSA attributes some of the increase in pedestrian injury to high gas prices. As the price of gas increases so does foot traffic. This is particularly true in urban areas. So as more people hit the street, more people get hit. Sometimes life just comes at you hard and fast and there isn’t much you can do about it. Oftentimes, however, accidents can be avoided by looking both ways before crossing traffic and by never assuming that a driver is paying attention or will yield the right-of-way to pedestrians.
PEDSAFE, an organization that works to improve pedestrian safety and mobility, advocates that auto drivers need to watch their speed and brake for pedestrians. Pedestrians should also take the same precautions that drivers do to stay safe when going to their destination. Pedestrians need to put away hand-held devices when walking to work, for exercise, or getting to their destination and be mindful of other modes of transportation around them.