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Walkers, drivers dangerously distracted: Deaths hit high

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Pedestrians are dying at levels that haven’t been seen in 25 years, according to a new Governor’s Highway Safety Association report.

The reason appears to be that people are ignoring some of the first lessons they learned as children: Watch where you are walking and look both ways.

The reason for that?

Walkers using cellphones, for one thing. More specifically texting while walking. Combine that with drivers using cellphones and the death toll is mounting.

Nearly 6,000 pedestrian fatalities occurred in 2017, a jarring statistic. In fact, the spike in pedestrian deaths began in 2015 with a 9.5 percent increase over the previous year. In 2016, there was another 9 percent increase.

Improvements in vehicle safety such as automatic emergency braking, rearview cameras and collision alert technology have not been able to change the pedestrian death trend, according to the National Highway Traffic Administration.

About 75 percent of pedestrian deaths happen at night. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, dim headlights might bear some responsibility. Every year, about 2,500 pedestrians are killed at night while crossing a road. In many cases, drivers can’t see them because their headlights are not bright enough.

Another suspected factor in the death toll is legalized marijuana. Seven states have legalized the drug, including the District of Columbia where pedestrian deaths rose 16.4 percent in the first half of 2017. However, since deaths in other states fell by nearly 6 percent, researchers have not drawn a definitive link.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Local

    April 16, 2018 at 6:40 pm

    Ban assault phones with high capacity texting

  2. Stan Stocker

    April 14, 2018 at 10:24 am

    A few things have changed these days. Pedestrians assume they have the right of way at all times, not just at cross walks. Look at people in parking lots. They walk behind you as you are backing up, walk out from between parked cars without looking, wander around in the middle of the travel lanes. If you want to get pedestrian deaths down, formally declare people in cross walks as protected, people outside of crosswalks with phones in their hands as targets. The fatality rate will soar for a while, then the stupid and self absorbed vapid twits will be culled from the herd and the rest of us will go along nicely, looking both ways before stepping into the travel lines.

    I disagree with the headlight issue however, if headlights are contributing to the increase they would have had to get dimmer, not brighter. While brighter headlights are better for a driver with no oncoming traffic, the very bright headlights make it difficult for oncoming drivers to see. Poor streetlight updates, such as the LED lights installed on Royal Avenue, cause a lot of glare, some are not aligned well and shine directly in your eyes, and on a rainy night there is so much glare it is far more difficult for a driver to see than it would be if they were just turned off.

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