Factors Responsible for Increased Pedestrian Fatalities

Factors Responsible for Increased Pedestrian FatalitiesFactors Responsible for Increased Pedestrian Fatalities

The number of pedestrian accident deaths has gone up in the United States in recent years. The Governors Highway Safety Association's new report Spotlight on Highway Safety estimated that 5,984 pedestrians nationwide were killed on the streets in 2017. That number is eerily similar to 2016 where 5,987 pedestrians died in traffic accidents. Researchers believe widely known factors may have had a significant impact on the pedestrian death toll.

Use of Smartphones

With a growing number of smartphone users across the country, both drivers and pedestrians are becoming more distracted as they lose sight of their surroundings, making for a deadly combination.  According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving is blamed for one in ten of all highway deaths and is linked to the rise in pedestrian deaths. A 2013 study from the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) indicated that the number of pedestrians struck and killed nationwide by distracted drivers in the five year period (2005 to 2010) has increased from 344 to 500.

Numerous states see distracted driving as a huge problem and have banned texting and driving. Fifteen states do not allow drivers to use handheld cell phones at all. Some cities have gone even further. Honolulu was the first U.S. city to ban texting while walking and now the small town of Montclair, California has followed suit. Pedestrians will be cited if they stare down at their phones while crossing the street. Other cities in Connecticut and New Jersey are also considering similar bills to ban texting and walking.

Deadly SUV-Pedestrian Crashes on the Rise

Higher Speed Limits

Higher speed limits increase the chance of a pedestrian accident and the severity of the injuries. At higher speeds, drivers will be less likely to see a pedestrian and will even be less likely to stop in time to avoid the collision. As the rate of speed increases, the risk of death increases as well. Based on a study by the European Commission, at crashes where a vehicle was traveling at 20 mph, 5 percent of pedestrians were killed. At 30 mph, the percentage rose to 45 percent, and at speeds of 40 mph, the percentage sharply increased to 85 percent.

Maximum speed limits have been on the rise since 1995. Currently, six states have an 80-mph speed limit. In Texas, drivers can drive on certain roads at 85 mph. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reported that increases in speed limits in the past 20 years have caused over 30,000 deaths in the United States.

Deadly SUV-Pedestrian Crashes on the Rise

Alcohol or Drug Use

Walking while drunk may not be illegal but it can be dangerous and even deadly. The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) reported that while 15 percent of pedestrians are killed each year by a drunk driver, 34 percent of those pedestrians killed were drunk themselves, with a blood-alcohol content (BAC) over .o8, the legal driving limit.

Marijuana may also be a contributing factor. The GHSA expressed that Washington D.C. and the seven states that have legalized the use of recreational marijuana between 2012 and 2016 reported a sharp increase in pedestrian deaths during the first half of 2016, while other states saw a decline.

Deadly SUV-Pedestrian Crashes on the Rise

Poorly Road Design

When lousy driving is combined with ineffective road design, the outcome can be tragic. In most U.S. cities, road design was implemented with vehicles in mind, focusing on improving the flow of traffic without accounting for a large number of pedestrians or bicyclists. Many roadways are challenging when pedestrians are not separated from moving traffic. The lack of sidewalks and pathways typically put pedestrians at risk, especially in areas next to high moving traffic.

Pedestrian crosswalks throughout many major cities are dangerous because of heavy traffic, wide roads, and high-speed traffic. In some areas where traffic control is ineffective, the pedestrian is often faced with making difficult decisions when to cross the lanes safely. However, the presence of a crosswalk is not guaranteed at keeping pedestrians safe.  The NHTSA reported that in 2006, more than 500 pedestrians died while using a crosswalk.

Deadly SUV-Pedestrian Crashes on the Rise I’m Ed Smith, a personal injury lawyer in Sacramento. It is now more dangerous than ever to walk down America's streets. Pedestrian fatalities in the United States have skyrocketed since 2009 and researchers say drivers of sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and other high-performance vehicles are responsible for a growing number of the surge. Though most pedestrian crashes involve cars, fatal single-vehicle crashes are increasingly involving SUVs. According to a May 2018 study released by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), deadly pedestrian accidents are growing at a faster rate with SUVs than with cars. Between 2009 and 2016, fatal pedestrian crashes involving SUVs increased by over 80% compared to 45% for all other types of vehicles. Factors in Fatal SUV-Pedestrian Accidents IIHS spokesperson Kim Stewart says their study did not specifically examine the reasons why fatal pedestrian crashes involving SUVs have increased. However, she believes the upsurge involves two key factors. “The increase in SUV involvement in fatal pedestrian crashes likely reflects the growing popularity of SUVs,” said Stewart. “Some features of SUVs and other light trucks make them more dangerous than cars to pedestrians when they are struck.” Popularity of SUVs SUVs have indeed become more popular in recent years, making up a more significant share of the vehicles on the road. SUV sales surpassed sedans in 2014 and continue to climb. The number of registered SUVs rose 37% from 2009 to 2016. Statistics from Automobile magazine indicate that SUVs and trucks now make up 67% of the auto market in the United States. Design of SUVs Vehicle size and weight can make a difference when it comes to protecting its occupants. While SUVs and other larger vehicles offer more protection for drivers and their passengers, researchers found that these vehicles were also more likely to severely injure or kill pedestrians during an impact. “SUVs, pickups, and vans are higher with more vertical front ends, which make it more likely to fatally hit a pedestrian in the chest or head, said Stewart. “Making changes to the front design of these vehicles could help reduce injuries when they hit pedestrians.” Other Factors Researchers believe other widely known factors may have had a significant impact on the pedestrian death toll. Use of Smartphones With a growing number of smartphone users across the country, both drivers and pedestrians are becoming more distracted as they lose sight of their surroundings, making for a deadly combination.  According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving is blamed for one in ten of all highway deaths and is linked to the rise in pedestrian deaths. A 2013 study from the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) indicated that the number of pedestrians struck and killed nationwide by distracted drivers in the five year period (2005 to 2010) has increased from 344 to 500. Numerous states see distracted driving as a huge problem and have banned texting and driving. Fifteen states don't allow drivers to use handheld cell phones at all. Some cities have gone even further. Honolulu was the first U.S. city to ban texting while walking and now and the small town of Montclair, California has followed suit. Pedestrians will be cited if they stare down at their phones while crossing the street. Other cities in Connecticut and New Jersey are considering similar bills. Higher Speed Limits Maximum speed limits have been on the rise since 1995. Currently, six states have an 80-mph speed limit. In Texas, drivers can drive on certain roads at 85 mph. As the rate of speed increases, the risk of death increases as well. Based on research by the European Commission, at collisions where a vehicle was traveling at 20 mph, 5% of pedestrians were killed. At 30 mph, the percentage rose to 45%, and at speeds of 40 mph, the percentage sharply increased to 85%. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reported that increases in speed limits in the past 20 years have caused over 30,000 deaths in the United States. Alcohol or Drug Use Walking while drunk may not be illegal but it can be dangerous and even deadly. The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), a nonprofit organization representing state and territorial highway safety, reported that while 15% of pedestrians are killed each year by a drunk driver, 34% of pedestrians killed were drunk themselves, with a blood-alcohol content (BAC) over .o8, the legal driving limit. Marijuana may also be a contributing factor. The GHSA expressed that Washington D.C. and the seven states that have legalized the use of recreational marijuana between 2012 and 2016 reported a sharp increase in pedestrian deaths during the first half of 2016, while other states saw a decline. Time of Day The risk of a pedestrian accident is present at any time of the day, however, walking in the evening can be more dangerous due to poor visibility and a higher chance of encountering drunk drivers. The NHTSA reported that the greatest danger for pedestrians is in the evening between the hours of 6 PM and 9 PM.  In 2010, over one thousand pedestrians were struck and killed during this time frame, accounting for 24.3 percent of pedestrian deaths. Road Design In most cities, road design was implemented with vehicles in mind, focusing on moving traffic smoothly. However, they did not account for a large number of pedestrians or bicyclists. Most city roads were constructed with little or no room for pedestrians to walk safely. Statistics on Pedestrian Deaths The regions that are usually the most hazardous for pedestrians saw the highest percentage increases in collision deaths from 2009 to 2016. Most pedestrians were killed when they were jaywalking along a busy arterial road. Most of those collisions occurred at night and usually involved males. Nationally, pedestrian fatalities increased by: 67% on arterials roadways that direct drivers to the freeways 56% in the evening hours 54% in urban and suburban areas 50% at non-intersections The IIHS study found that while pedestrians 70 or older are more likely to be struck and killed, the biggest increase in per capita pedestrian fatality rates was actually those between 20 and 69. Although there isn’t a clear understanding of the increase, the study implies that it could be merely because more people in that age range are walking. Deadliest Pedestrian Cities The Governors Highway Safety Association's new report Spotlight on Highway Safety estimated that nearly 6,000 pedestrians nationwide were killed on the streets in 2017. That’s up 46% since 2009. Five states — Arizona, California, Florida, New York and Texas — accounted for about 43% of all pedestrian fatalities in the first six months of 2017. These states only represent 30% of the United State's population. In California, an estimated 352 pedestrian deaths occurred between January 2017 and June 2017, ranking the state as  the15th highest in the nation in pedestrian deaths. Based on recent statistics, the top ten cities in the United States with populations of at least 200,000 with the highest per-capita pedestrian death rates between 2009 and 2016 are: Detroit, Michigan – 34.5% Newark, New Jersey – 29.1% Louis, Missouri – 28.9% Baton Rouge, Louisiana – 28.5% Miami, Florida – 28.4% San Bernardino, California – 26.4% Birmingham, Alabama – 25.5% Tampa, Florida – 24.1% Fayetteville, North Carolina – 23.9% Phoenix, Arizona – 23.6% Preventing Pedestrian Accidents Pedestrian safety advocates believe that improvements in vehicle design could make SUVs and high-horsepower vehicles less dangerous to pedestrians. Cars with safety features like automatic emergency braking (AEB) that can detect pedestrians could help reduce as many as 5,000 pedestrian collisions and over 800 pedestrian deaths each year. One study found that Subaru cars that are equipped with an automatic emergency braking system had 35% fewer pedestrian collisions than the same models without the safety feature. Numerous auto manufacturers, such as General Motors and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, are looking into integrating these safety features as standard equipment for all their future models by 2022. Other recommendations include softening the front-end of the SUVs, making headlights brighter, installing rearview cameras and adding pedestrian airbags that inflate if the car strikes someone, preventing the pedestrian from hitting the front roof pillars. Researchers also recommend improving pedestrian infrastructures such as adding road diets (lane reduction), pedestrian bulb-outs (curb extensions), signalized mid-block crossings and more sidewalks. Kim Stewart with IIHS says improvements should also be made to assist both drivers and pedestrians see better, especially at night. “Because a large majority of pedestrian deaths happen in the dark, better street lighting and better vehicle headlights could help,” said Stewart. Stewart added that reducing vehicle speeds via lower speed limits and use of speed cameras to enforce existing speed limits can also help minimize deadly pedestrian crashes. Future Safety Measures There’s no denying how dangerous SUVs are to pedestrians based on recent statistics. As these high-performance vehicles continue to rise in popularity, automakers should take proactive steps to educate the public about the safety repercussions. In the meantime, while cities and auto manufacturers strive for better safety measures, it’s important that drivers and pedestrians stay alert of their surroundings and practice attentiveness at all times. Watch YouTube Video: Pedestrian Fatalities and SUV Accidents on the Rise, Report Finds. This news clip from NBC Nightly News discusses the increase of deadly SUV-pedestrian accidents. Personal Injury Lawyers in Sacramento I’m Ed Smith, a personal injury lawyer in Sacramento. The number of pedestrian deaths continues to climb nationwide due to the popularity of SUVs on the road and other various factors. If you have been injured or have lost a loved one in a pedestrian accident, call me at <span class=916.921.6400 or (800) 404-5400 for free, friendly and compassionate legal advice. I am proud to have assisted many residents in Sacramento and throughout Northern California obtain fair repayment in personal injury and wrongful death cases for over three decades. See our client reviews on: Avvo Google Yelp I’m an honored member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, a forum of elite U.S. trial lawyers who have negotiated a settlement or case verdict worth more than one million dollars. See our Verdicts & Settlements. To learn more about my firm and practic" width="384" height="256">

Time of Day

The risk of a pedestrian accident is present at any time of the day, however, as the sun goes down, the risk goes up. Night time is especially dangerous due to poor lighting conditions, low visibility and more drunk drivers or pedestrians on the road. A 2013 data fact sheet from the NHTSA showed that the greatest danger for pedestrians is in the evening hours between 6 PM and 9 PM, accounting for 26 percent of pedestrian accidents and 23 percent from 9 PM to Midnight.

Statistics on Pedestrian Deaths

The regions that are usually the most hazardous for pedestrians saw the highest percentage increases in collision deaths from 2009 to 2016. Most pedestrians were killed when they were jaywalking along a busy arterial road at night. Nationally, pedestrian fatalities increased by:

  • 67% on arterials roadways that direct drivers to the freeways
  • 56% in the evening hours
  • 54% in urban and suburban areas
  • 50% at non-intersections

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) May 2018 study found that while pedestrians 70 or older are more likely to be struck and killed, the biggest increase in per capita pedestrian fatality rates was actually those between 20 and 69. Although there isn’t a clear understanding of the increase, the study implies that it could be merely because more people in that age range are out walking.

Deadliest Pedestrian Cities

Five states — Arizona, California, Florida, New York and Texas — accounted for about 43 percent of all pedestrian fatalities in the first six months of 2017. These states only represent 30% of the United State's population. In California, an estimated 352 pedestrian deaths occurred between January 2017 and June 2017, ranking the state as the 15th highest in the nation in pedestrian deaths.

Based on recent statistics, the top ten cities in the United States with populations of at least 200,000 with the highest per-capita pedestrian death rates between 2009 and 2016 are:

  • Detroit, Michigan – 34.5%
  • Newark, New Jersey – 29.1%
  • Louis, Missouri – 28.9%
  • Baton Rouge, Louisiana – 28.5%
  • Miami, Florida – 28.4%
  • San Bernardino, California – 26.4%
  • Birmingham, Alabama – 25.5%
  • Tampa, Florida – 24.1%
  • Fayetteville, North Carolina – 23.9%
  • Phoenix, Arizona – 23.6%

Watch YouTube Video: SAFE STEPS Road Safety: Pedestrians. This public service announcement raises awareness and provides essential life-saving educational messages on pedestrian safety.

Sacramento Pedestrian Accident Lawyers 

I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento Pedestrian Accident Lawyer. Fatal pedestrian accidents continue to increase nationwide. If you have been injured or have lost a loved one in a pedestrian accident, call me for free, friendly and compassionate legal advice at 916.921.6400 or (800) 404-5400. You can also contact me online.

I’m a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum.

See our Verdicts & Settlements.

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Visit AutoAccident.com to learn more about my firm and practice areas.

Photos courtesy of Pexels.com and Jacek Dylag on Unsplash

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