"Texting Equals Driving Blind."
(Poster created by Sandy High School student
From The Asian Reporter, V27, #7 (April 3, 2017),
pages 8 & 14.
Pedestrian deaths spiked in 2016, distraction
By Joan Lowy
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON ó Pedestrian deaths are climbing faster than
motorist fatalities, reaching nearly 6,000 deaths last year ó
the highest total in more than two decades, according to an
analysis of preliminary state data.
Increased driving due to an improved economy, lower gas
prices, and more walking for exercise and environmental reasons
are some of the likely reasons behind the estimated 11 percent
spike in pedestrian fatalities in 2016. The figures were
prepared for the Governors Highway Safety Association, which
represents state highway safety offices.
But researchers say they think the biggest factor may be more
drivers and walkers distracted by cellphones and other
electronic devices, although thatís hard to confirm.
Walking and miles driven are up only a few percentage points,
and are unlikely to account for most of the surge in pedestrian
deaths, said Richard Retting, safety director for Sam Schwartz
Transportation Consultants and the author of the report.
Meanwhile, texting and the use of wireless devices have
exploded, he said.
"Itís the only factor that seems to indicate a dramatic
change in how people behave," Retting said.
The report is based on data from all states and the District
of Columbia for the first six months of 2016 and extrapolated
for the rest of the year. It shows the largest annual increase
in both the number and percentage of pedestrian fatalities in
the more than 40 years those national records on such deaths
have been kept, with the second largest increase occurring in
2015. Pedestrian deaths as a share of total motor vehicle crash
deaths increased from 11 percent in 2006 to 15 percent in 2015.
"This latest data shows that the U.S. isnít meeting the mark
on keeping pedestrians safe on our roadways," said Jonathan
Adkins, the safety associationís executive director. "Every one
of these lives represents a loved one not coming home tonight,
which is absolutely unacceptable."
Traffic fatalities overall jumped six percent last year,
pushing deaths on U.S. roads to their highest level in nearly a
decade and erasing improvements made during the Great Recession
and economic recovery, according to data released in February by
the National Safety Council, a leading safety organization. The
council estimates there were more than 40,200 traffic deaths in
2016. The last time there were more than 40,000 fatalities in a
single year was in 2007, just before the economy tanked. There
were 41,000 deaths that year.
But pedestrian deaths are sharply outpacing fatalities
overall, climbing 25 percent from 2010 to 2015, according to
Rettingís research. Total traffic deaths increased about six
percent over the same period.
"We cannot look at distracted driving solely as an in-vehicle
issue," said Kelly Nantel, a spokeswoman for the safety council.
"That discounts the impact distraction could have on
On the other hand, "walking is working," she said. "Just as
we need drivers to be alert, pedestrians have to be, too."
Another factor in pedestrian deaths is alcohol. Thirty-four
percent of pedestrians and 15 percent of drivers involved in
fatal crashes were intoxicated at the time, Retting said. But
there is no indication that there has been a change in drinking
habits that would account for the spike in deaths, he said.
More than twice as many states reported an uptick in
pedestrian fatalities than had decreasing numbers.
The problem is greatest in large-population states that have
urban areas where people do a lot of walking. Delaware, Florida,
and Arizona had the highest rates of pedestrian deaths relative
to their populations, while North Dakota, South Dakota, and
Wyoming had the lowest.
The striking increase in pedestrian deaths has grabbed the
attention of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB),
the government panel that investigates accidents and makes
safety recommendations. The board held a forum on pedestrian
safety last year, and currently has an investigation underway to
broadly examine the causes and potential solutions to the
Pedestrians "are our most vulnerable road users," said NTSB
member Bella Dinh-Zarr.
People are "more easily distracted than when we didnít have
so many easily accessible, essentially, computers in our palms,"
she said. "We look at that as an increasing risk for