Fatalities among drivers involved in traffic accidents have hit record lows in Virginia, but the same cannot be said regarding pedestrian deaths. Those have started to rise at a rate that has authorities alarmed.
According to a report from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), pedestrian deaths rose 53% in the decade between 2009 and 2018. In recent years, however, the rate at which pedestrians are dying in traffic accidents seems to be increasing even faster. In 2018, for example, there were 8% more fatalities among pedestrians than 2017.
Human error and bigger vehicles are a deadly combo on the streets
Smartphones initially took the blame for a lot of the problems — but that’s a simplistic answer that doesn’t really explain the surge. In fact, research indicates that it’s a different American obsession in play: The increase in sports utility vehicles (SUVs) and heavy-duty trucks on the road.
Large vehicles started to dominate the market by 2012, and there’s no sign of a change. These larger vehicles have a higher build and greater mass, which means they inflict a lot more damage in a crash. When a pedestrian is hit by a smaller vehicle, they may fly upward onto the vehicle’s hood. That’s actually a positive thing, because they aren’t as likely to suffer the devastating chest injuries that come from being run over by the vehicles that struck them.
When a truck or SUV collides with a pedestrian, by comparison, the pedestrian is likely to be hit higher on their body and then pushed under the vehicle. The odds of surviving such an accident are, quite naturally, much lower.
Socio-economic issues may also be in play. As suburbs increasingly become poorer, there are more people walking streets that are poorly designed for pedestrians. Sidewalks are often absent and crosswalks missing or far away from where they are needed.
There are no easy answers to the problems
The only thing people can do right now to protect themselves is be conscious of the danger and take whatever steps they can to be visible and safe. The reality is that 94% of all motor vehicle accidents are related to human error. That puts a lot of responsibility on drivers.
If you’re involved in a pedestrian accident or a loved one is killed, find out more about how you can hold the negligent party liable for their actions.