New data from The Governor’s Highway Association (GHSA) showsthat the rate of pedestrian accidents in Dallas County this year is on track to match or possibly exceed the number of pedestrian accidents that occurred in 2018. This is a new addition to a disturbing trend: pedestrian accident fatalities in the county rose 82% in the years between 2010 and 2018.
The problem isn’t exclusive to Dallas or to Texas. According to a recent report by the Governor’s Highway Safety Association (GHSA), 6,227 pedestrians in the U.S. were killed due to motor vehicle crashes in 2018, and thousands more were injured. This number rose 4% from 2017, and according to the GHSA’s report, it was the highest number of pedestrian fatalities since 1990. The GHSA’s report said Texas pedestrian fatalities rose 5% from 2017 to 2018.
Currently, pedestrian fatalities account for 16% of all traffic deaths nationwide. There have been increasing precautionary measures taken to avoid pedestrian accidents, with many new technologies in use, but the number of pedestrian accidents continues to rise in Dallas County. If the trends reported for the first quarter of the year continue, 2019 may have the highest number of pedestrian deaths in Dallas County than any year on record. Why?
The GHSA cites a few reasons why the number of pedestrian accidents has continued to skyrocket across the country.
One is that more Americans are walking rather than driving or taking public transit. According to one government survey, the number of Americans who had recently walked to work increased by 4% between 2007 and 2016.
Unsafe or poorly lit road crossings might also contribute. While many people think that pedestrian accidents mostly occur at intersections with heavy traffic, the opposite is actually true. A majority of pedestrian accident fatalities actually occur at night on local roads. In fact, nighttime accidents account for over 90% of the increase in pedestrian accident deaths over the last ten years.
The GHSA claims that poor driving habits and irresponsible pedestrian behavior are a third reason for the rise in accidents and deaths. Driving habits that have contributed to the rising rate of pedestrian deaths include speeding, drowsy driving, distracted driving, and alcohol impairment. And drivers aren’t the only ones under the influence. Pedestrians are more likely to be hit by vehicles when they are intoxicated. In fact, according to the GHSA, in 2017, around half of all crashes that ended in pedestrian fatalities were linked to either the driver or pedestrian being under the influence.
Last is a factor most people wouldn’t think about: the increase in the number of SUVs on the road. The number of pedestrian deaths caused by SUVs has increased 50% since 2013, while the number of pedestrian fatalities caused by passenger cars has increased 30% in comparison. SUVs are more likely to cause fatalities during a pedestrian crash simply due to their larger size.
The trends also seem to indicate that the rate of pedestrian injuries and deaths has been increasing along with the population.
While the rising trend of pedestrian deaths in Dallas County is disturbing, there are a few things that drivers and pedestrians can do to help increase pedestrian safety.
For one thing, don’t drive under the influence — ever. And don’t walk under the influence, either. If you’re buzzed to the point that your reactions are slowed, you need to call a loved one or a taxi or rideshare service to take you home.
Second, whether you’re driving or walking, put your devices down. Distracted driving is likely one of the major causes of the increase in pedestrian deaths. Distracted drivers may not see crosswalk signals or pedestrians in front of them. Similarly, distracted pedestrians may disobey crosswalk signs or not see oncoming drivers if they are looking at their phones, especially if they are also wearing headphones.
Third, don’t jaywalk. While it is tempting to just hurry across a street if you don’t see any oncoming cars, don’t do it. You could get a ticket, or worse, get hit by a vehicle.
Walking is good for people’s health, good for traffic and good for the environment. But whether you’re walking or driving, be careful out there.