Pedestrian deaths in the USA have skyrocketed 46% since 2009 according to an article in USA Today – The Journal News published on May 8, 2018 entitled “Perils of walking in USA increase” by Eric D. Lawrence, Chris Woodyard, Zlati Meyer and Kristi Tanner. The increase far outpaced other traffic related death according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Almost 6,000 pedestrians were killed by motor vehicles on American roads in 2016, the latest year for which numbers are available.  That’s almost twice the number of death tied directly to the September 11 terrorist attacks and more Americans have died as they walked than died in combat in Iraq each year since 2003.

There are many causes for the increase in pedestrian deaths. Distraction behind the wheel, texting while driving and while walking and marijuana legalization have been cited as potential culprits.

A study released in May by Insurance Institute for Highway Safety suggests at least part of the blame rests with Americans increase use of SUV’S. The study shows 81% increase in the number of SUV’S involved in single vehicle pedestrian fatalities from 2009-2016. The Insurance Institute President said one reason SUV’s have a greater impact on pedestrian fatalities has to do with their design. SUV’s have higher front end and the design is more vertical than passenger cars. The vehicles are playing some role. Pedestrian fatalities reached 5,987 in 2016, the highest since H.W. Bush was President.  Nationally, more pedestrians die in collision when they are crossing at points other than intersections along busy roads. More of the fatalities occur at night and involve males and alcohol. In 2016, pedestrians accounted for 16% of traffic deaths; in 2008 that figure was 11% according to NHTSA. The crisis fell mostly in American cities such as St. Louis and Newark but also in Sun Belt cities such as Phoenix, Baton Rouge and Miami. Detroit Michigan had the highest role among larger cities, nearly a quarter of the 118 people who died in traffic crashes in 2016 were pedestrians. Despite its first place ranking in the city, they saw improvements in its fatality numbers in 2016 which dropped after 65,000 street lights were installed over a three year period. The City intends to replace 125,000 sidewalk slabs to keep more pedestrians out of the street.

The NHTSA began a major examination into the effect of personal electronic device usage on pedestrian deaths. This could clarify the role that distraction is connected to cellphone use. The NHTSA said no studies show a direct link between the behavior effect of distraction and pedestrian crash risks but distraction-affected motor vehicles crashes lead to many deaths and injuries.

New York City has targeted drivers. In 2017, 101 pedestrians were killed in New York City. The lowest number since the City began keeping statistics in 1910. The number has dropped 45% since Mayor Bill DeBlasio was elected in 2014. He has implemented a strategy called “Vision Zero” a multi-agency effort that uses engineering, education and enforcement. New York City began redesigning the roadway using methods including plastic lane bollards to prevent drivers from making sudden sharp left turns and tweaking walk/don’t walk signs to change before the traffic lights do to give pedestrians several extra seconds of crossing time. New York City has spent more than $70 million since 2014 and has $1.6 billion allocated to use through the summer of 2022 according to the New York City DOT.

If you or a loved one suffered death or injuries as a pedestrian, contact the law firm of Dominick J. Robustelli & Associates, PLLC at (914) 288-0800 or on the web at White Plains Personal Injury


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