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Pedestrian-Vehicle Accidents: The New Public Health Crisis?

More pedestrians than ever are dying in traffic accidents across the United States.

According to a report from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), although there has been an overall decline in traffic-related fatalities throughout the country, the death toll for pedestrians has risen sharply during the past decade.

The GHSA report indicates that, while other traffic-related fatalities decreased by 6 percent from 2008 to 2017, the number of pedestrian deaths rose by a whopping 35 percent.

Unfortunately, the GHSA is projecting that when all the numbers are calculated, pedestrian fatalities in 2018 will hit a nearly 30-year high.

And it’s not just the GHSA that is reporting a spike in pedestrian deaths. According to an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) 2018 report, pedestrian fatalities increased 46 percent from 2009 to 2016.

Pedestrian Accidents In Michigan

The good news is that the overall statistics for Michigan pedestrian accidents are better than the nationwide figures.

According to the GHSA report, Michigan is one of 23 states that have actually witnessed a decline in pedestrian fatalities. This downward trend is likely attributable to the fact that the state has recently instituted various pedestrian safety measures, including public education campaigns and road safety audits.

The bad news for Michigan is that Detroit appears to be in the midst of a pedestrian accident crisis. The Detroit Free Press reported last year that among U.S. cities with populations of at least 200,000, Detroit had the highest per capita pedestrian death rate – 34.5 per 100,000 residents – from 2010 to 2016.

According to the Free Press article, the areas of Detroit where pedestrians are most likely to be hit by vehicles are:

  • Gratiot/East Side.
  • 7 Mile, 6 Mile and Greenfield/West Side.
  • Downtown Detroit.

Why More Pedestrian Accident Deaths?

Numerous factors contribute to the overall increase in pedestrian deaths, including:

  • higher speed limits/speeding vehicles.
  • economic conditions.
  • population growth.
  • demographic changes.
  • weather conditions.
  • fuel prices.
  • more people walking.

One major factor affecting the rise in pedestrian fatalities is that both motorists and pedestrians are frequently distracted by their cell phones – a deadly combination. The fact is, more crashes occur when motorists and pedestrians are not focused on the task at hand or their surroundings.

Infrastructure is another factor contributing to pedestrian fatalities. Studies show that pedestrians are more likely to be struck by vehicles in areas that do not have enough sidewalks and where traffic lights and signage are not well maintained (or are non-existent). Contrary to what many might think, intersections are not a factor in about 70 percent of pedestrian deaths.

When it comes to infrastructure, three main approaches have been suggested to help reduce pedestrian crashes: 1) separate pedestrians from vehicles by time or space; 2) make pedestrians easier to see; and 3) reduce the speed of vehicles. Basically, this means more sidewalks, overpasses, underpasses, refuge islands in medians and traffic signals are needed. Better street lighting is also needed, so motorists can more easily spot people on or near the roadways.

Studies show the majority of pedestrian fatalities happen most often between 6 p.m. and midnight and on Saturdays. The following are also true about pedestrian deaths:

  • While elderly pedestrians are struck less often than children, an elderly person’s injuries are more likely to be fatal.
  • Male pedestrians die more frequently in crashes than females.
  • In 2016, 34 percent of fatally injured pedestrians age 16 and older had blood-alcohol levels at or above .08 percent. (Note: this rate has been steady for nearly two decades.)
  • In 2016, 13 percent of motorists who fatally struck pedestrians had blood-alcohol levels at or above .08 percent.

SUVs And Pedestrian Deaths

Notably, pedestrian accidents involving sport utility vehicles (SUVs) are rising at a significantly higher rate than collisions with other types of cars. Between 2009 and 2016, deadly SUV-pedestrian collisions increased by a staggering 81 percent, compared to 46 percent for all other vehicles.

Why the higher risk of death when an SUV is involved?  Because SUVs, which continue to gain popularity, are bigger and heavier than most cars. SUVs also sit higher off the ground and their front-end is more bluntly designed, not allowing a pedestrian to “roll off” when hit.

According to industry experts, the features of an SUV lead to more serious injuries for pedestrians, particularly to the head and chest. In fact, a 2004 study found that pedestrians are twice as likely to die in a crash with an SUV compared to another type of car.

Vehicle Safety And Pedestrian Accidents

When it comes to vehicle safety, technology typically focuses on protecting the driver and passengers in a car accident. But according to the GHSA, safety features that focus on improving the structural integrity of a vehicle can actually make it more deadly if it strikes a pedestrian.

In recent years, automakers have been rolling out technology that is designed to reduce the number of impacts with pedestrians. Some of this technology includes:

  • improved headlight design and lighting standards.
  • softer vehicle hoods.
  • front-crash prevention systems.
  • automatic braking.
  • rearview cameras.
  • pedestrian detection systems.
  • night vision cameras.

In the end, however, it’s important to remember that two things will always help reduce the number of pedestrian deaths: slow down and pay attention.

If you have been injured in a Michigan pedestrian accident, our experienced Detroit personal injury attorneys can help. Contact Christensen Law today.