What’s Causing The Rise in Pedestrian Deaths?

As fatal motor vehicle crashes rise in this country, it’s not just drivers and passengers who are dying.  The number of U.S. pedestrians killed in traffic accidents are now at historic levels.

From 2008 to 2017, the number of pedestrian deaths in the country increased 35 percent, with nearly 6,000 walkers killed in 2017.  According to the federal government, more than 16 pedestrians were killed in traffic accidents each day in that year.

This month the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration published its newest edition of “Traffic Safety Facts for 2017” (the latest year for complete data), this one on pedestrian deaths from motor vehicle accidents.   It’s a comprehensive review of when, where and why pedestrians were killed.

Three-quarters of the pedestrian deaths occurred at night, with the majority occurring between 6 p.m. and midnight.  Older adults, those between 50 and 59 years old, experienced the most number of walkers killed in traffic crashes.

In 2017, about 10 percent of Missouri’s traffic fatalities were pedestrians.

Fatal Pedestrian Traffic Accidents and Alcohol

So what are the leading causes of pedestrian deaths?

According the NHTSA report, alcohol is a major factor.  Nearly half – 47 percent – of all traffic crashes involving a pedestrian death involved alcohol.

Another factor could be driver inattentiveness.  The 2017 report shows that the overwhelming majority of pedestrians killed were struck by the front of cars. Research has shown that drivers, distracted by cell phones or some other factor, may miss what is right on front of them.  Called “inattentional blindness,” this happens when the driver’s vision is controlled by the task at hand.  The driver simply overlooks an object – or person – that’s in plain sight.

Inattentive Drivers and Pedestrian Deaths

It’s been cited in research (Human Factors, “Allocating Attention to Detect Motorcycles: The Role of Inattentional Blindness”) as a cause for fatal motorcycle accidents.  It may also apply to pedestrian deaths.  Distracted drivers may fail to notice pedestrians who are in crosswalks or safely on the side of the road, even during daylight hours.

While the news on pedestrian deaths in 2017 was not good, it appears it will not be any better for 2018.  In February the Governors Highway Safety Association released an estimate on pedestrian deaths in 2018 (“Pedestrian Traffic Fatalities by State 2018 Preliminary Data”) that projects the number of walkers killed last year to be 6,200; an increase of some 4 percent over 2017.

And it estimates that the number of pedestrians killed in Missouri in 2018 will rise 2 percent over the year prior.

Missouri is the Show Me State.  Until Missouri drivers show they are putting down their cell phones or ignoring other distractions, pedestrians remain at risk.

If you or a family member were critically injured when hit by a driver, speak with a motor vehicle accident attorney about pursuing your legal rights against those responsible.

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements.

Authored by Gray, Ritter & Graham, P.C., posted in Blog March 18, 2019