Increase in pedestrian deaths hits a 40-year high nationally
March 9, 2016 12:00 AM
The study on pedestrians also cited factors such as an increase in the number of Americans walking for health, economic or environmental reasons and the use of cell phones and other devices that distract drivers and walkers.
By Ed Blazina / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Lower gasoline prices may be good for the wallet, but they may be bad for the health of drivers and pedestrians.
A study released Tuesday by the Governors Highway Safety Association predicts the number of pedestrian fatalities for 2015 increased about 10 percent, the highest yearly increase since the annual Spotlight on Highway Safety Report began in 1975. That prediction is based on the increase in the number of pedestrian deaths in the first six months of 2015, 2,368 compared with 2,232 in the first six months of 2014, the association said.
Those figures come on the heels of a National Safety Council study last month that showed overall traffic deaths rose 8 percent last year, the highest increase in 50 years.
Both studies singled out lower gas prices as a major factor in the number of deaths in 2015 because motorists took advantage of fuel prices to drive about 3.5 percent more miles than the previous year.
The study on pedestrians also cited factors such as an increase in the number of Americans walking for health, economic or environmental reasons and the use of cell phones and other devices that distract drivers and walkers. The number of pedestrians killed is about 15 percent of all traffic accidents, up from about 11 percent a decade ago.
Richard Retting, who co-authored the study for Sam Schwartz Consulting, said in a news release he is “quite alarmed” by the increase in pedestrian deaths.
“Pedestrian safety is clearly a growing problem across the country,” he said. “It is important to understand the data underlying these crashes so states and localities can apply the right mix of engineering, education and enforcement to counteract this troubling trend.”
The study showed the biggest increase was in Ohio (124 percent); Minnesota, Montana and Oregon each doubled the number of pedestrian deaths. Deaths in Ohio increased from 25 to 56 in the first six months of 2015.
In Pennsylvania, the number of pedestrian deaths went down in the first six months of 2015, from 73 to 59.
PennDOT spokesman Rich Kirkpatrick said the state has been implementing pedestrian safety programs under its latest Strategic Highway Safety Plan, adopted in 2012.
Under that plan, the agency funds safety programs in each county and has distributed more than 10,000 “yield-to-pedestrian” safety crosswalk signs since 2001, resulting in a 25 percent reduction in pedestrian accidents. It also is in the midst of a two-year pedestrian safety study in Philadelphia.
Ed Blazina: email@example.com or 412-263-1470.
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