The GHSA blamed the move on lighter cars, bad road construction, disturbance and even climate change.
Recently, the US government declined to sign the Declaration of Stockholm supporting road safety and Vision Zero, saying in its dissent that “the United States is committed to improving global road safety and leads by example.”
And what an example! The Governor’s Highway Safety Association (GHSA) has just released its annual report on deaths in pedestrian traffic, and it continues to grow, up a whopping five percent over 2018. Perhaps worse, in the longer term:
During the 10-year period from 2009 to 2018, the number of pedestrian fatalities increased by 53% (from 4,109 deaths in 2009 to 6,283 deaths in 2018); by comparison, the combined number of all other traffic deaths increased by 2%. Along with the increase in the number of pedestrian fatalities, pedestrian deaths as a percentage of total motor vehicle crash deaths increased from 12% in 2009 to 17% in 2018. The last time pedestrians accounted for 17% of total U.S. traffic deaths was over 35 years ago, in 1982.
Governors Highway Safety Association/Public Domain
The reasons for the changes are different, but the change from cars to light trucks (SUVs and pickups) seems to have made a major difference; the number of deaths involving SUVs has risen by 81 percent in 10 years, while the rate of increase involving cars has risen by 53 per cent. Most of this has to do with vehicle construction, as we have repeatedly noted:
Pedestrians struck by a large SUV are twice as likely to die as those struck by car. Design changes such as softer vehicle fronts, pedestrian-detection systems and replacement of the blunt front ends of light trucks with sloping, more aerodynamic (car-like) designs can reduce the risk of pedestrian deaths in the event of a crash.
The GHSA also states that the usage of cellphones is a threat to all road users, and that the use of smartphones has risen by 400 percent over the past ten years and the consumption of wireless data by 7000 percent. “Some of these injuries are caused when the user engages in text messaging instead of traditional phone communication.”
Much of the fatality rises occurred at night and even climate change gets a nod:
Warmer temperatures could contribute to the recent rise in pedestrian fatalities by encouraging more nighttime outdoor activity (including walking). These higher temperatures are also associated with increased alcohol consumption, which increases the risk of fatal pedestrian collisions.
The U.S. opposition to the Stockholm Declaration states that “the U.S. is focused on improving road safety, particularly for pedestrians and bicyclists by infrastructure design.” Meanwhile, maximum 59 percent of pedestrian deaths occur on non-freeway highways, those large suburban “stroads.” Not surprisingly, 74 percent of deaths occur outside intersections. But the perpetrators are not to blame by the GHSA:
Challenging crossing locations such as multilane urban arterials often have bus stops or land use patterns that require pedestrians to cross busy roads. Countermeasures such as rectangular rapid flashing beacons, pedestrian-hybrid beacons, curb extensions and pedestrian refuge islands have been shown to improve pedestrian safety in these environments… Most pedestrian fatalities occur at non-intersection locations. Although it is impossible to make all non-intersection locations safe or suitable for pedestrian activity, there are opportunities to improve pedestrian safety at midblock locations through speed enforcement and management, along with increased street lighting.
And, essentially, most of the deaths happen in a mix of poorly lit, pedestrian-unfriendly streets where you have to walk a long way toward a signal, and where people prefer to drive their pickups too hard.
The GHSA report is in complete opposition to the resistance of the government to the Stockholm Declaration on its face. It states that “socioeconomic status (SES) — especially poverty — is another strong risk factor for pedestrian crashes” and that “a California study found that pedestrian crashes are four times more common in poor communities.”
States should also continue to work with local law enforcement partners to address chronic driver violations that contribute to pedestrian crashes such as speeding, impaired driving and distracted driving.
I believe the Governors will give the letter to the White House. Anyone may want to read it.
Written by Lloyd Alter
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