Pedestrian deaths surged by approximately 10 percent last year as the economy started to improve, the price of gas went down and motorists started to drive more, according to an analysis of preliminary state traffic fatality data.
A report released by the Governors Highway Safety Association states that the escalating use of cellphones distracting drivers and walkers may also be somewhat to blame on the numbers. Warmer weather and a shorter winter along with a greater awareness of health benefits may also be encouraging people to walk more. Also, while more crashworthy vehicles protect drivers and passengers in a crash, pedestrians remain vulnerable when hit, the report notes.
There were 2,368 pedestrians killed in the first six months of 2015, compared to 2,232 during the same period in 2014 – a six percent increase. Researchers came to the 10 percent increase for the entire year by factoring in that fatalities for the first half of the year are typically underreported, and that for at least the last five years an average of 25 percent more pedestrian deaths were recorded in the second half of the year, which includes warmer summer months.
Four large population states – Florida, California, Texas and New York – accounted for 42 percent of the pedestrian deaths from January to June in 2015. California recorded the most overall, 347, with Florida second at 273. Florida was among the nation’s worst in pedestrian deaths in the first half of 2015. Our state had 1.35 deaths per 100,000 residents. Arizona was next with 1.27; Delaware had 1.27; and South Carolina had 1.12. By comparison, Florida’s number of pedestrian deaths dropped 4 percent, from 284 during the first half of 2014.
According to Richard Retting, co-author of the report. “Pedestrian safety is clearly a growing problem across the country.” If the national trend holds true for the full year, it would be the largest year-to-year increase in pedestrian deaths since 1975, when the current federal system for recording traffic deaths was created.
The report is based on state traffic fatality figures, extrapolated for the full year by researchers at Sam Schwartz Consulting, which specializes in transportation matters.
Total traffic deaths, which had been trending downward for the past decade, were also up an estimated 8 percent last year. But pedestrian fatalities have been rising since 2005, and now account for 15 percent of total traffic deaths. The last time pedestrian deaths accounted for that large a share of traffic deaths was 25 years ago.
Nearly three-quarters of pedestrian deaths occur after dark, and a third of those killed had been drinking alcohol, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data. By comparison, about 15 percent of motorists involved in those crashes had a blood alcohol content at the legal limit or higher.