Red Flags in Recent Study

New studies show that the number of pedestrians killed in motor vehicle accidents is at a 33-year high. And the two main culprits fueling the increase in fatalities may not be what you’d expect.

The study, conducted by the Governors Highway Safety Association, found that nationally nearly 6,000 pedestrians were killed in 2017. That is a 27 percent increase in the 10-year study period.

While other types of accidents have decreased by 14 percent, accidents involving pedestrian deaths have increased. These kinds of changes in statistics tend to send up glaring red flags.

A GHSA study calculated pedestrian traffic fatalities by state and found two leading factors in the significant increase: pot and phones.

Leading in more Ways than One

In analyzing the findings, it’s no surprise that Washington and the six other states that have legalized marijuana have seen the greatest increase in pedestrian deaths. States legalizing marijuana saw a 16.4% increase in pedestrian deaths in the first six months of 2017 compared to 2016. In the rest of the states, there was a 5.8% decrease in pedestrian deaths.

What Weed in Washington State Looks Like

In Washington alone, the increase in pedestrian deaths shows a direct correlation to legalized marijuana-use. It accounted for 22.2% of pedestrian deaths in the 2016-2017 data; almost 6 percent higher than the trend seen in other states that have also legalized its use.

An author from the study says that it is critical to pay attention to this data for warning signs and definitive explanations as to why we are seeing a surge in pedestrians’ deaths in such a short period of time.

Dying for a Smartphone

While not everyone is using marijuana, a clear majority of Americans are hooked on another very addictive habit—smartphones. Some may even describe it as a “technological drug” or instant “fix.” 

The reported use of smartphones in the United States has increased by 236 percent from 2010 to 2016. The GHSA study also shows the number of cell-phone related ER visits directly paralleled the surge in the prevalence of cell phone use. The numbers don’t lie when people die.

In five states—California, Florida, Texas, New York, and Arizona—43% of all pedestrian deaths were tied back to cell phone use. Washington state ranked 28th highest in pedestrian traffic deaths caused by cell phone usage from January to June 2017.

A traffic consultant in the Governors’ safety report, Richard Retting, said that phones are like magnets. The countless apps available and instant accessibility can divert our attention from even what’s immediately in front of us. “There’s a great concern because people are taking their eyes off whatever the task is and becoming distracted. In this case, taking the eyes off the road is essentially driving blindfolded.”

Heeding the Warning Signs

With the warning flags hoisted, the study makes several recommendations for reducing the number of pedestrian traffic deaths—such as adding refuge islands in the middle of 2-way streets, more sidewalks, pedestrian overpasses, better street light and higher-visibility crosswalks.

Eye-opening statistics also show that it is not always the motorists who are at fault when those on foot die in traffic accidents. In 2016, toxicology reports showed that one of every three pedestrians killed by vehicles had a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher. Whereas, in contrast, only 13 percent of drivers involved were drunk.

Is This the New Normal?

After all those numbers sink in—are you wondering where all these pedestrian deaths are occurring? The highest proportion of fatal pedestrian incidents occurred at intersections in Washington state.

GHSA’s Jonathan Adkins, the group’s executive director, cautioned that we can’t afford these trends to be the new normal. With all the distractions for drivers and pedestrians alike, it appears we don’t even see each other coming!

In addition to the pedestrian fatality crash characteristics, the report also discusses promising strategies to reduce pedestrian and motor vehicle crashes through a combination of engineering, education and enforcement efforts. It also outlines specific examples from 41 states such as: training law enforcement officers to understand and enforce laws aimed to protect pedestrians; collaboration between State Highway Safety Offices and state Department of Transportation; and policy changes to prioritize safety for all road users, regardless of mode.

No joint or phone is worth laying your life down for. Perhaps there needs to be a catchy national campaign or dialogue about “staying on your toes” so that we can bury these statistics and not our loved ones. Safety is a conscious choice…every single day.

Our Accident Lawyers and Personal Injury Lawyers Are Here to Help

Personal injury attorneys concentrate their practice to specific areas of the law. At Fielding Law Group, we focus on serving those who’ve suffered personal injuries and loss in cases like motor vehicle or pedestrian accidents. Our legal team focuses their efforts and skill in getting the compensation and restitution our clients deserve.

If you or someone you love has been hurt in a pedestrian accident or motor vehicle collision, call Fielding Law Group today, for a free consultation about your case. Our personal injury attorneys are familiar with the antagonistic tactics and runaround strategies some insurance companies use to wear innocent victims down and get them to settle quickly. Let Fielding Law Group represent you to the fullest extent of the law and we’ll get you the highest compensation for your unique case. Remember—Don’t let an accident wreck YOU!