The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) has released a new report showing that for the first time since 2009, the number of pedestrians killed on America’s roadways is declining. The preliminary 2013 report indicates that compared with the first 6 months of 2012 (2,175 deaths), pedestrian deaths fell by 8.7% during the first half of 2013 (1,985 deaths). More states had decreases than increases in the fatality rate, with Florida and California showing the highest rates of decline.
GHSA analyzed pedestrian deaths in the U.S.between 2009 and 2012, and discovered a 15% increase in the fatality rate during that time. Compared to a 3% decrease in all other motor vehicle fatalities in the same time period, the results were concerning enough to prompt the organization to conduct the new study. The data came from all 50 states’ highway safety offices and from the District of Columbia. States with the most fatalities are primarily large-population states with large urban centers. California, Texas and Florida accounted for one-third of all pedestrian deaths reported. The lowest percentages of pedestrian fatalities are in predominantly rural states such as South Dakota (2%), North Dakota (4%) and Wyoming (5%).
While there are no definitive conclusions as to why pedestrian fatalities increased so significantly before 2013, speculation centers on the economic recession since 2009, which may have put more people on the streets, walking to lower their transportation costs. Walking for health and environmental benefits may have also been a factor, as well as the surge in distracted walking incidents. A study by the Pew Research Center indicates that more than half (53%) of all adult cell phone owners have been
involved in some form of a distracted walking encounter. Whether cell phone owners live in urban, suburban or rural areas, and without a significant age differential, all are equally likely to have run into something or been run into by something, due to distracted walking.
The reasons for the decline in pedestrian deaths in 2013 are also difficult to explain. But the study speculates that all 50 states have been utilizing a number of engineering, educational and enforcement programs to help combat the problem. These include designing and operating roadways that make access safer for all users; adding mid-block crossings; making crossing signals better timed for pedestrian use; and even using plainclothes police officers who are placed in marked crosswalks to identify and warn or cite motorists who do not yield the right of way to pedestrians.
As a professional limousine driver, chances are you are surrounded by pedestrians several times a day and night. Please remember that keeping your eyes moving and slowing down in congested areas will go a long way in keeping the roadways safer for you, your passengers and for the pedestrians who might not pay proper attention to their own surroundings.