JUMP IN PEDESTRIAN ACCIDENTS PUZZLING
An article by Larry Copeland published in the December 9, 2011 edition of FLORIDA TODAY reports that it is getting riskier for people on foot, and experts arent sure why.
The article goes on to state that new National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data show pedestrian fatalities rose 4.2% in 2010 over the previous year. The number of pedestrians hurt in motor vehicle crashes soared 19%, to 70,000.
Experts are puzzled by the increase, which comes as road fatalities in most categories are dropping. The jump follows four straight years of falling pedestrian deaths, and a 14% decrease in pedestrian fatalities from 2000 to 2009.
"Quite frankly, I dont know why they went up," says James Hedlund, a former NHTSA official who researched pedestrian safety in January for the Governors Highway Safety Association. "Nobody knows. As far as I can tell, nobody has studied the issue. The data (are) too new." Possible explanations:
Pedestrians are put at risk by the preponderance of wide, high-speed roads designed to move large numbers of vehicles but not with pedestrians in mind.
Low income residents and immigrants have added population in suburban areas and more pedestrians are distracted by cell phones and other handheld communication devices. There has been only anecdotal evidence of "pedestrian distraction" as a factor in fatalities, such as a 31-year-old woman killed in March in San Ysidro, Calif., while crossing the street in a crosswalk. Police said she was on her cell phone and ignored a red light.
"Nobody has good data," says Richard Wener, professor of environmental psychology at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University, who collaborated on studies led by Jack Nasar, an Ohio State University professor. One obstacle to obtaining good data is police are not required to indicate whether a victim was using a phone or texting. "My guess is thats going to change," he says.
Drinking also is a major factor in pedestrian fatalities. Alcohol-impairment of the driver or the pedestrian was involved in 48% of all pedestrian fatalities in 2009, according to NHTSA.
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