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Walk Softly: Pedestrian Deaths Spike in 2016

A report released March 30 by the Governors Highway Safety Administration (GSA) shows a disturbing trend: pedestrian deaths increased by 11 percent in 2016 over the same time period in 2015 and 22 percent higher than in 2014. Overall, the report shows 5,997 pedestrian deaths in 2016; 5,376 in 2015; and 4,910 in 2014. The report also suggests the numbers for 2016 could be the highest in more than two decades.

The report shows that pedestrian deaths made up more than 15 percent of all traffic fatalities; 74 percent occurred after dark; and alcohol was involved in 34 percent of the accidents. Also, 72 percent occurred in travel lanes; 18 percent in intersections; and 10 percent in non-travel lanes, including shoulders and driveways.

Texas ranked in the top 10 for pedestrian fatalities, with more than two deaths per 100,000 population. With 322 fatalities, the number of pedestrian deaths increased in Texas by 80 in 2016, increasing from 242 fatalities in 2015, a jump of 33.1 percent.

Accident Causes

An article by NPR released on March 30 interviewed several experts to find the cause of the upswing in deaths, and the consensus is fairly unsurprising. Among the causes is the lower price of, putting more cars on the road, in conjunction with health initiatives putting more pedestrians on the road. But the consensus is that the most important variable is distracted driving — and even distracted walking. While speed and failure to yield are still the two biggest causes of traffic fatalities, distraction is third and increasingly responsible, specifically with cell phones. As drivers and walkers alike increasingly pay more attention to their phones with their eyes downward, their reaction times are slowed and accidents are more likely.

Take Precautions

However, the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center (PBIC) does have suggestions to make walking safer. Precautions that can be taken to minimize the basic risks include:

Be Safe and Be Seen: Make yourself visible to drivers

  • Wear bright/light-colored clothing and reflective materials.
  • Carry a flashlight when walking at night.
  • Cross the street in a well-lit area at night.
  • Stand clear of buses, hedges, parked cars, or other obstacles before crossing so drivers can see you.

Be Smart and Alert: Avoid dangerous behaviors

  • Always walk on the sidewalk. If there is no sidewalk, walk facing traffic.
  • Stay sober; walking while impaired increases your chance of being struck.
  • Don’t assume vehicles will stop. Make eye contact with drivers, don’t just look at the vehicle. If a driver is on a cell phone, he or she may not be paying enough attention to drive safely.
  • Don’t rely solely on pedestrian signals. Look before you cross the road.
  • Be alert to engine noise or backup lights on cars when in parking lots and near on-street parking spaces.

Be Careful at Crossings: Look before you step

  • Cross streets at marked crosswalks or intersections, if possible.
  • Obey traffic signals such as WALK/DON’T WALK signs.
  • Look left, right, and left again before crossing a street.
  • Watch for turning vehicles. Make sure the driver sees you and will stop for you.
  • Look across ALL lanes you must cross and visually clear each lane before proceeding. Even if one motorist stops, do not presume drivers in other lanes can see you and will stop for you.
  • Don’t wear headphones or talk on a cell phone while crossing.

If you have been injured, or a loved one was injured or killed in a pedestrian accident, seek legal assistance from Guajardo and Marks of Dallas. With significant experience and resources, the firm is proud to give fellow Texans the legal help they need. Contact us online or call us at 972.774.9800.