Although traffic deaths have spiked recently with lower gas prices, car accident fatalities and injuries have been on an overall decline in recent years. We can thank safer roads and better cars for that.
But there is one group that hasn’t fared so well: Pedestrians.
The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) opines the number of pedestrian deaths nationally has spiked by 10 percent this last year. That follows a 19 percent increase from 2009 to 2014.
Charlotte-Concord does not rank well in these statistics. A study released in 2014 titled Dangerous by Design revealed this area ranked No. 10 in terms of the most dangerous metro area for pedestrians. When researchers tallied the Pedestrian Danger Index in 51 of the nation’s biggest cities, they looked at how many pedestrian deaths there were compared to the percentage of those who walk to work. Charlotte had a PDI of 111.74. That is more than twice the national average of 52.1.
There are an estimated 1.65 pedestrian deaths for every 100,000 people, and less than 2 percent of residents here walk to work.
Of course, a big part of the problem is that post-WWII roadway infrastructure was built primarily for motor vehicle traffic. That means wide roads, higher speed limits, few sidewalks, few crosswalks and not many bicycle lanes.
Charlotte’s transportation department launched a Complete Streets program in 2007 that aims to reduce the number of pedestrian injuries and fatalities by changing the approach. Rather than trying to simply accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists, city leaders said, the city must make it so that they are an integral part of the planning for each street.
And yet, pedestrian accidents continue to be a significant problem. Researchers say distraction is likely a major cause. In fact, a study completed by the Public Health Reports six years ago indicated that pedestrian fatalities caused by distracted motorists had climbed by 50 percent in just five years. That was in 2010, when less than 35 percent of Americans had a smartphone. Compare that to last year, when nearly 70 percent of U.S. adults had smartphones.
Another sizable study conducted over the course of three years by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute revealed drivers are distracted 70 percent of the time they are behind the wheel – most often by their phones.
While this inevitably increases the risk of a crash, auto manufacturers have added all sorts of bells and whistles in recent years that protect drivers and passengers from certain types of impact. Pedestrians, however, have no barrier between themselves and the pavement.
For the first time in a quarter century, the number of pedestrian deaths will account for 15 percent of overall traffic deaths.
Although the final count is still being prepared, officials say preliminary figures put it higher than 1996, when 5,449 pedestrians were struck and killed by car accidents.
Early data from the first six months of 2015 indicates 2,369 pedestrians were killed in that time frame. That’s compared to 2,232 killed during the same time frame of 2014.
Most fatal pedestrian accidents occur after dark and about 15 percent involved motorists who had blood-alcohol concentration levels in excess of the 0.08 limit.
South Carolina has the fourth-highest number of pedestrian deaths nationally.
Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
Walking gets deadlier, even as roads get safer for people in cars, March 8, 2016, by Ashley Halsey III, Charlotte Observer
More Blog Entries:
Distracted Driving is Going to Cost Us All in 2016, March 22, 2016, Charlotte Pedestrian Accident Lawyer Blog