Pedestrian Fatalities are rising in the U.S., even while fatalities decrease for all other groups, according to the National Highway Safety Administration.
How bad is the problem?
4,735 pedestrians were killed in accidents in 2013 – an average of one pedestrian death every 2 hours. Pedestrians are 1.5 times more likely to be killed on any given trip than are people riding or driving in vehicles.
And what about non-fatal accidents? More than 150,000 pedestrians were injured so badly in traffic accidents that they ended up in hospital emergency rooms. Every seven minutes – about the time it will take to read this article – another pedestrian gets hurt.
What’s the cause?
One of the contributing factors is the fact that so many people are absorbed in their phones, even while crossing the street. With their heads down, people can become oblivious to everything else around them.
You may have seen some of the viral videos. Some are humorous, like the one showing a woman who falls into a mall fountain while she is texting. Others are much more grim, showing people falling on train tracks or being involved in traffic accidents. Beyond the videos, you see examples every day. This week I watched a young man, ear buds in and eyes fixed on his smart phone, start to cross a four lane street against the light in noon traffic. His saving grace was a construction worker who grabbed his arm. No lesson learned – he went right back to his phone.
How can we fix it?
A novel idea has come out of Germany to deal with this problem. Two German cities have embedded upward-facing traffic lights into the sidewalk or into the floor in train stations, where people looking down at their phones are more likely to see them.
Is this a good idea?
The lights are new, and the German cities are still monitoring the results. It does, however, seem like a cutting-edge plan that could work. Anything that can meet people where they are and save lives is worth pursuing.
Some of the city residents don’t agree and have complained about the costs. The lights are about 10,000 euros each — that’s more than $11,000. City officials, however, are committed to the program. If the data demonstrate that it works, do not be surprised if the sidewalk lights show up some day in a city near you.
Meanwhile, what can you do as a pedestrian to increase your own safety?
- Put away your phone. As the article outlines, this is one of the leading causes of pedestrian accidents. If you need to talk, stop walking – you will not lose that much time.
- Walk sober. We all know that drunk drivers are much more likely to be involved in a crash. But did you know that drunk pedestrians are also more likely to be killed? In fact, 34 percentof pedestrians killed in traffic accidents had an elevated blood alcohol level.
- Be more careful at night. Most pedestrian accidents occur at night.
- Always cross at an intersection. More pedestrian accident-related deaths occur when people are not in intersections.