Pedestrian Traffic Fatalities Spike: What is to Blame?

Madeleine Jones
June 19, 2017

The number of pedestrian traffic fatalities has increased significantly in the past two decades with an 11 percent rise in 2016, and experts say driver and pedestrian distraction may be to blame. Texting and the use of wireless devices have exploded in recent years, however, and such a dramatic change in people’s behavior is more likely to be the culprit.

People are walking more for health and environmental reasons, and driving has increased due to an improved economy, but these factors seem to have less of an impact on pedestrian safety than the use of cellular phones, GPS, and other electronic devices. According to Richard Retting, the safety director for Sam Schwartz Transportation Consultants, walking and the number of miles driven is only up to a few percentage points; they are unlikely to account for most of the recent spike in pedestrian accidents and fatalities.

Pedestrian Fatalities on the Rise

The National Safety Council released data in February 2017 revealing that traffic fatalities rose by 6 percent overall between 2010 and 2015, with an estimated 40,200 deaths in 2016 alone. But pedestrian fatalities are quickly outpacing overall traffic deaths. In fact, the number of pedestrians killed surged 25 percent from 2010 to 2015. Such a substantial increase has brought the issue to the attention of the National Transportation Safety Board who is currently investigating causes and possible solutions to the problem.

Distraction Kills

According to Melody Geraci of the Active Transportation Alliance, distractions are the third leading cause of pedestrian fatalities, after speeding and failure to yield. Some of the more common distractions that take drivers’ attention away from the roadway include:

  • Cellular phone use, including texting, making and receiving calls, and using social media
  • Eating and drinking while driving
  • An excessive number of passengers
  • GPS and other electronic devices

While distracted driving has been well documented to be a major cause of traffic accidents in recent years, pedestrians can become oblivious to their surroundings when distracted, as well. The National Safety Council data reveals a notable increase in the number of pedestrians injured due to distracted walking.

Alcohol Also Related to Pedestrian Fatalities

Alcohol is another common factor that is believed to impact the number of pedestrian fatalities. But although 34 percent of pedestrians and about 15 percent of drivers are intoxicated when involved in a fatal crash, there has been no indication of increases in drinking that would cause such a spike in fatal crashes. If you or a family member was seriously injured in an accident, call a car accident attorney at Cogburn Law Offices today for a free case consultation.