Pedestrian Deaths Spiked in 2016, Distraction Cited as a Cause

Categories: Accidents

Southern California is infamous for traffic jams and congested roadways. Apparently, there is a perception that those of us who live here choose to spend most of our time behind the wheel of a car. Nothing could be further from the truth, of course. Look around the streets of any Orange County community and you are sure to see people jogging, walking their dogs, or just taking a stroll. Pedestrian travel is extremely popular here. With plenty of sunshine and a health-conscious population, this should come as no surprise.

What is surprising is the recent spike in pedestrian traffic accidents all across the country. As outlined in a new report prepared for the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), fatal accidents involving pedestrians reached nearly 6,000 last year. This represents an 11 percent increase from 2015. The report also suggests that distracted driving – and smartphone use in particular – may be to blame for the sudden increase in vehicle/pedestrian collisions.

Walking Near Traffic Becomes More Dangerous Every Year

When the GHSA released its 2016 figures, the annual increase drew a lot of attention. The report concludes there were 5,997 pedestrian deaths nationwide over the course of the year. In 2015, there were 5,376 deaths. In 2014, there were 4,910.

The data from this three-year period clearly indicates that the problem is getting worse. Viewed over a longer period, though, numerical increases in pedestrian accidents are less consistent. A 10-year chart shows that the annual number of deaths actually decreased four times:

Year Pedestrian

Fatalities

2006 4,795
2007 4,699
2008 4,414
2009 4,109
2010 4,302
2011 4,457
2012 4,818
2013 4,779
2014 4,910
2015 5,376

Do these fluctuations over the long term mean pedestrians are safer than the recent figures suggest? Unfortunately, no. The annual number of pedestrian deaths only tells half of the story. To gauge the true scope of the problem, we must view the number alongside the total number of fatal accidents each year.

Consider the years 2007 through 2009. The number of pedestrian fatalities went down each of these years. But the total number of traffic deaths went down even more. The result is an uptick in pedestrian deaths, despite the lower overall numbers. In fact, viewed as a share of total traffic deaths, pedestrian accidents have steadily increased over time:

Year Pedestrian Fatalities Total Traffic Fatalities Pedestrian Fatalities as % of Traffic Fatalities
2006 4,795 42,708 11%
2007 4,699 41,259 11%
2008 4,414 37,423 12%
2009 4,109 33,883 12%
2010 4,302 32,999 13%
2011 4,457 32,479 14%
2012 4,818 33,782 14%
2013 4,779 32,894 15%
2014 4,910 32,744 15%
2015 5,376 35,092 15%

Smartphones as a Contributing Factor

Some behaviors that lead to pedestrian accidents – like ignoring crosswalk rules, speeding, and driving while intoxicated – are problems that have been with us for quite some time. But the authors of the GHSA report believe last year’s spike in fatalities may be linked to a relatively new traffic safety issue:

A more recent factor contributing to the increase in pedestrian fatalities may be the growing use of smart phones by all road users, which can be a significant source of distraction for both drivers and pedestrians.

This excerpt from the report appropriately points out that both drivers and pedestrians are guilty of using the roadways while distracted by their phones. Not mentioned, though, is the fact that the consequences of a collision are far more severe for a pedestrian. Unlike distracted drivers, pedestrians are not surrounded by thousands of pounds of steel and other protective material. A pedestrian may very well lose his or her life in a vehicle accident in which the driver suffers no physical injury at all.

Legal Help for Injured Pedestrians and Their Families

Walking the streets of Southern California should not involve the risk of serious injury or death. If you were victimized by a careless driver, call the pedestrian accident attorneys at Neale & Fhima at (888) 506-0899 or fill out the contact form below.