Study finds ‘alarm­ing rise’ in pedes­trian deaths in U.S.

The Buffalo News - - FRONT PAGE - By Christina Caron and Ni­raj Chokshi NEW YORK TIMES

The num­ber of pedes­tri­ans killed in traf­fic in the United States is ap­proach­ing a three-decade high, con­tribut­ing to what has been an “alarm­ing rise” in such deaths in re­cent years, ac­cord­ing to a new study.

An es­ti­mated 6,227 pedes­tri­ans were killed in traf­fic in 2018, ac­cord­ing to the study from the Gov­er­nors High­way Safety As­so­ci­a­tion, a pro­jec­tion based on data from the first half of the year. That fig­ure rep­re­sents a strik­ing rise from a decade ear­lier, when 4,109 pedes­tri­ans were killed in traf­fic.

“I’ve been in this busi­ness for 36 years and I’ve never seen a pat­tern like this,” said Richard Ret­ting, who wrote the re­port and has worked in a va­ri­ety of traf­fic en­gi­neer­ing and safety roles for the New York City Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion, the In­sur­ance In­sti­tute for High­way Safety and other fed­eral and lo­cal trans­porta­tion agen­cies.

The re­port cited al­co­hol use, speed­ing, un­safe in­fra­struc­ture and the preva­lence of SUVs as some of the big­gest prob­lems con­tribut­ing to the fa­tal­i­ties. It also sug­gested that the in­creased use of smart­phones may con­trib­ute to such deaths. With smart­phone use on the rise, both driv­ers and pedes­tri­ans are at risk of be­ing in­creas­ingly dis­tracted. Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, the num­ber of smart­phones in ac­tive use in­creased more than five­fold be­tween 2009 and 2017 and was matched by an even larger in­crease in an­nual wire­less data traf­fic.

“We are driv­ing more and driv­ing dead­lier cars,” said Emiko Ather­ton, di­rec­tor of the Na­tional Com­plete Streets Coali­tion.

In re­cent years, cities across the coun­try have worked to tackle the prob­lem, adopt­ing “Vi­sion Zero” plans with the goal of elim­i­nat­ing traf­fic fa­tal­i­ties out­right. But while many cities have made progress to­ward that goal, pedes­trian deaths have proved dif­fi­cult to erad­i­cate.

In New York, for ex­am­ple, over­all traf­fic deaths fell to their low­est lev­els in more than a cen­tury last year, though pedes­trian deaths in­creased, mir­ror­ing the longer-term trend na­tion­wide. Na­tion­ally, over­all traf­fic deaths fell 6 per­cent from 2008 to 2017, but pedes­trian deaths rose 35 per­cent over that same pe­riod.

Many of those deaths are oc­cur­ring at night. From 2008 to 2017, the num­ber of night­time pedes­trian fa­tal­i­ties in­creased by 45 per­cent while day­time pedes­trian fa­tal­i­ties in­creased by 11 per­cent.

Five states ac­counted for nearly half of the pro­jected deaths: Ari­zona, Cal­i­for­nia, Florida, Ge­or­gia and Texas.

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