Despite numerous advances in road and pedestrian safety, 2016 saw the biggest single-year increase in pedestrian fatalities nationwide on record, and the highest total number of pedestrian deaths in over 20 years. That's according to a report from the Governors Highway Safety Association, as reported by NPR. Nationwide, the number of pedestrians killed in traffic was almost 6,000, an 11 percent increase compared to 2015.
Traffic deaths overall were also up in 2016, by 6 percent nationwide. It's widely believed that part of that trend is due to a stronger economy and low gas prices, which means people are driving more often. More cars on the road naturally means there will be more accidents, including pedestrian accidents.
But given that pedestrian fatalities increased more than twice as fast as traffic fatalities in general, something else is likely at play. As we've seen time and again, part of the explanation is likely distraction.
Texting while driving, texting while walking can both lead to serious accidents
It's well known that texting while driving is a serious safety issue on our roads. Motorists who text while behind the wheel not only take their eyes off the road, but are also mentally distracted: Even while they're looking at the road, they can't see things in front of them. Because pedestrians are smaller and quieter than cars, they often go unnoticed by distracted drivers, leading to serious accidents.
But pedestrians themselves may also contribute to the danger by engaging in distracting activities. Whether talking on the phone, taking pictures or texting while walking, distracted pedestrians may have trouble seeing where they're going - which makes them vulnerable to injuries. Today, distractions are the third leading cause of pedestrian fatalities, and electronic devices are the top cause of distraction.
Other factors are certainly at play as well. Higher speeds contribute to more and more serious accidents, for instance. Alcohol is a contributor in many pedestrian fatalities, some of which are caused by drunk drivers, and others of which involve intoxicated pedestrians. Drinking and walking can be just as dangerous as drunk driving.
Whether you're behind the wheel or on the sidewalk, safety should always be your first priority. Stay alert and keep your eyes on the road or path in front of you, not on your phone. If you need to send a text, take a picture or make a call, it's always worthwhile to sit down or pull over to do so. And if you're injured by a distracted driver, know your rights - and contact an experienced injury lawyer. In over 40 years, the Law Offices of Joe Bornstein has helped more than 25,000 injured or disabled Mainers get the justice they deserve. Contact us today for a free and confidential evaluation.