Pedestrian Deaths Lept in 2015
But a traffic safety school in Kentucky aims to raise a generation of safer drivers and pedestrians
Walking down the street in the United States may be hazardous to your health.
According to a new report on pedestrian safety, the number of pedestrian deaths jumped 10 percent from 2014 to 2015 — the largest annual rise ever recorded. The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) report also shows pedestrians now account for about 15 percent of all motor vehicle crash-related deaths, up from 11 percent a decade ago.
“We are projecting the largest year-to-year increase in pedestrian fatalities since national records have been kept, and therefore we are quite alarmed,” said report author Richard Retting of Sam Schwartz Consulting. “Pedestrian safety is clearly a growing problem across the country. 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.”
Why the increase? The GHSA cites factors such as more cars on roads (due to better economic conditions and lower gas prices), more pedestrians on roads (due to more people walking for health benefits), distracted walking and distracted driving, to name a few. And while cars are getting safer, which raises the odds of surviving a car crash, pedestrians are as vulnerable as ever, GHSA’s report says.
In 2015, 26 states and the District of Columbia had increases in the number of pedestrian deaths. Large states with large cities tend to have more fatalities, so it’s not surprising that California, Florida, Texas and New York accounted for 42 percent of all pedestrian deaths for the first six months of the year.
A creative solution
(Photo: City of Lexington, Kentucky)One town is taking steps to raise a generation of safer drivers and walkers.
Safety City, in Lexington, Kentucky, a partnership between Eastern Kentucky University and the Lexington Police Department, is designed to teach elementary-age kids about auto and pedestrian safety. More than 2,000 elementary school-aged children visit Safety City each year.
The “city” features a roadway with traffic signals that students use while driving special cars. (Toyota just donated a new fleet of electric cars.) As kids tool around, they also learn about seatbelt safety and bicycle safety, according to Safety City’s website.
“We all have to do our part in making sure that those who end up behind the wheel are equipped with their own set of safety features,” Wil James, president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky, recently told the Lexington Herald Leader. “We think that means starting earlier to teach kids about driver, passenger and pedestrian safety.”
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