New York Bucks Nationwide Trend of Increased Pedestrian Fatalities
A report released earlier this month by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) reveals that pedestrian fatalities increased during the first six months of 2010, by seven, from 1,884 to 1,891. The increase is small 0.4 percent but is notable because overall traffic fatalities during this period were significantly down, and it comes on the heels of four straight years of steady declines in pedestrian deaths. If the second six months of 2010 also show no significant change, this will be the first year of increase or no progress after four years of decline. Pedestrian traffic fatalities dropped from 4,892 in 2005 to 4,091 in 2009, an average decline of 200 each year. New York, however, like California and Texas, experienced reductions in pedestrian fatalities. Nonetheless, pedestrian safety must remain a high priority in New York because while 12% of the nations traffic fatalities were pedestrians, they accounted for more than 20% in New York. In contrast pedestrian fatalities accounted for less than 5% in Idaho, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Wyoming. Pedestrian distractions such as using a cell phone while walking are considered to be a cause of danger to pedestrians. In New York, Senator Carl Kruger (D-Brooklyn) has re-introduced legislation making it illegal to use an iPod, cell phone, Blackberry or any other electronic device while crossing the street. Under the bill, anyone - runners and other exercisers included - caught crossing the street while using an electronic device would be issued a criminal court summons with a penalty of $100. GHSAs new report Spotlight on Safety: Pedestrian Traffic Fatalities by State is the first state-by-state look at pedestrian fatalities for 2010. The single notable change over the past 10 years is the decrease in child pedestrian fatalities: down 42% in ages 0-19 combined and down 58% among schoolchildren ages 5-14. Several current lifestyle trends may affect pedestrian crashes and fatalities. Both drivers and pedestrians are increasingly distracted by cell phones and other portable electronic devices. The GHSA report notes that while there are no single solutions to address pedestrian safety, there are well established general principles states should follow to keep pedestrians safe. These include:
- Prioritization. Make pedestrian safety a real priority and allocate appropriate resources to pedestrian countermeasures.
- Data Analysis. Analyze crash data to identify pedestrian problem areas. Some states conduct pedestrian safety audits.
- Engineering. Install pedestrian crosswalks or reserve roadway space and time for pedestrians. Georgia has added pedestrian-activated red stop lights at high-volume pedestrian areas.
- Laws and Enforcement. Enhance laws and employ innovative enforcement tactics. New Jersey strengthened its law by requiring vehicles to stop, rather than only yield, for pedestrians in crosswalks. Hawaii and New Jersey have used decoy enforcement tactics, in which police officers pose as pedestrians in marked crosswalks; motorists who fail to stop are issued warnings or tickets by uniformed officers a short distance away.
- Education. Educate children on safe pedestrian behaviors as is currently done across the nation.