- The Governors Highway Safety Administration (GHSA) has projected almost 6,000 pedestrians were killed in car crashes last year, the second year in a row that deaths have been at a 25-year high.
- States reported a total of 2,636 pedestrian deaths for the first six months of 2017, and after adjusting for trends, the data is projecting a final tally of 5,984 deaths on the year. In a press release, GHSA said that is “essentially unchanged” from the total of 5,987 deaths in 2016. Pedestrians now account for approximately 16% of all motor vehicle deaths, compared with 11% just a few years ago.
- "Two consecutive years of 6,000 pedestrian deaths is a red flag for all of us in the traffic safety community. These high levels are no longer a blip but unfortunately a sustained trend," GHSA executive director Jonathan Adkins said in a statement. "We can’t afford to let this be the new normal."
These are troubling statistics from GHSA and should be a wake-up call for states and cities to try and reduce pedestrian deaths on their streets. The Vision Zero directive, which calls for making cities safer for all road users, has picked up steam in recent times. Recently, Los Angeles chose to tweak speed limits on more than 70 of its streets, while there have been similar pushes in Portland, OR and other cities.
Also of note for city leaders should be the GHSA’s correlation between the national growth in smartphone usage and the growth in pedestrian fatalities. The reported number of smartphones in active use in the U.S. increased 236% from 2010 to 2016, according to GHSA figures, and the need to avoid distracted driving as well as pedestrians being distracted while crossing the street plays a significant role in reducing risk for all parties.
Already, Honolulu has enacted a ban on using cell phones in crosswalks, while Montclair, CA followed suit late last month. Two aldermen in Chicago also proposed a law that would fine pedestrians $500 for texting in a crosswalk. Whether such legislation is effective, or even enforceable, remains up for discussion, but it could be a model for other cities looking to keep people safe.
Meanwhile, GHSA found where recreational marijuana use has been legalized — seven states and Washington, DC — they experienced a 16.4% increase in pedestrian deaths in the first half of 2017. All other states had a 5.8% decrease. Report author Richard Retting of Sam Schwartz Consulting said marijuana impairment could be a “possible contributing factor” to increased pedestrian deaths, so any city authority ought to consider the impact of decriminalization given this.