Walking might still be the safest way to travel, but a new report released by the Governors Highway Safety Association shows that the risks have increased significantly. There has been an 11% increase nationwide in the number of pedestrian deaths from 2015 to 2016. This is the highest increase for a single year. Fatalities are expected to continue climbing in 2017.
The largest contribution to the increase of pediatrician deaths are distractions for both pedestrians and drivers. Increase in vehicular accidents due to cell phone use has been well-documented. Indeed, the effort to promote safety and preserve life through advocacy, education, and action is the core mission of End DD (End Distracted Driving), www.enddd.org.
But there has also been an increase in pedestrian injuries because of distracted walking. With more accidents being caused from the distraction of cell phones, it is easy to see how an increase in deaths would also be a result.
The other huge factor in pedestrian deaths is alcohol. Everyone knows that drunk driving causes accidents and deaths, but 34% of the pedestrians killed are legally drunk themselves. In the GHSA study, nearly half of all pedestrian deaths involved alcohol for either the driver or the pedestrian. Walking home after drinking all night can lead pedestrians to have poor judgment and significantly increase the likelihood of getting hit by a driver.
Consistent with the national average, Louisiana has seen an increase of 10.4% in pedestrian deaths from 2015 to 2016. Louisiana is in the process of implementing a “Complete Streets” policy to try to decrease the number of pedestrian deaths. Some parts of the strategy include the development of Pedestrian and Bicyclist Safety Action Plans and the introduction of a Safe Routes to Public Places program. This program would construct bike and pedestrian facilities close to libraries, parks, playgrounds, and other public places. These programs are a step in the right direction, but more still needs to be done.
*Special thanks to Celeste Birdsall for her help with this article.
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