Pedestrian deaths in the U.S. held steady in 2017 compared with the previous year, but the number - nearly 6,000 - is not a comforting one. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), pedestrians and drivers continue to live dangerously and not always compatibly, but important safety strides are being made in some states such as Texas.
A Washington-based nonprofit, the GHSA recently released a report that analyzed pedestrian traffic fatalities. What it found was that pedestrians and drivers often are distracted from their tasks at hand. Smartphones and marijuana usage are suspected to be among the reasons.
Pedestrian deaths increased 27 percent in decade
In some cases, it's becoming less safe to be a pedestrian. The GHSA study disclosed that pedestrian fatalities increased 27 percent from 2007 to 2016, but other traffic deaths decreased by 14 percent.
Here are some of the study's findings:
- Children and older adults are most vulnerable to pedestrian crashes.
- States that legalized marijuana between 2012 and 2016 reported a 16.4 percent increase in pedestrian fatalities in the first six months of 2017.
- About 75 percent of pedestrian fatalities occurred at night in 2016. Texas was among the five states reporting 80 percent or more of pedestrian fatalities taking place during the night-time hours. Such was the case of a recent fatality in Fort Worth when a man attempted to cross Interstate 35 and was struck by a vehicle.
- With 263 fatalities in the first six months of 2017, Texas ranked third behind California (352) and Florida (303).
- Texas had three counties ranked among the country's top 10 with the largest number of pedestrian fatalities for 2016. They were Harris County - home to Houston - with 128 deaths; Dallas County with 84; and Bexar County - home to San Antonio - with 68.
While the GHSA's data for 2017 remains preliminary, it does have complete numbers for the previous year.
Texas safety awareness campaign may be working
In 2016, Texas had the country's ninth-highest pedestrian fatality rate with 2.44 deaths per 100,000 population. However, for the first six months of 2017, that number declined to 0.93 deaths per 100,000 population.
What is Texas doing right? It's really been focusing on safety awareness. For example, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) introduced its "Be Safe. Be Seen" campaign to improve safety around Interstate 35 in the Austin area. The campaign included providing reflective bags to the homeless and school children, groups considered to be at-risk. The TxDOT also created a number of public service announcements explaining the dangers of walking while impaired on alcohol and drugs or being distracted while using a smartphone.
Pedestrians should feel safe walking on sidewalks and across roads. However, nowadays with smartphones and other distractions, they need to take extra precautions.