Pedestrian Deaths Surge: Marijuana and Smartphone Usage Could be Factors
Pedestrians need to be more careful than ever as pedestrian death rates surge. The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) released a report in 2018 showing that just under 6,000 pedestrians were killed in accidents involving motor vehicles in the U.S. in 2017. While that is the same number of pedestrians killed in 2016, the death toll is the highest it has been in 25 years.
Pedestrian deaths statistics
Data collected by the GHSA in their annual “Spotlight on Highway Safety” report on pedestrian deaths in 2016:
- Pedestrian deaths accounted for about 16 percent of all motor vehicle deaths in 2016, up from 11 percent in 2007.
- Twenty-three states and D.C. posted increases in pedestrian fatalities in 2017, while 20 states had fewer pedestrian fatalities and seven stayed the same.
- Five states (California, Florida, Texas, New York and Arizona) were responsible for 43 percent of all pedestrian deaths.
- Arizona had the highest rate of pedestrian deaths per resident population, while Hawaii had the lowest.
What is the cause of this surge in pedestrian deaths?
The GHSA believes that legalization of marijuana in multiple states and increasing smartphone use could be contributing to the rise in pedestrian deaths. Although researchers acknowledge that a definitive link was not found the data below led them to their analysis.
According to National Electronic Injury Surveillance data, the number of smartphones used in the U.S. increased 236 percent from 2010 to 2016, while related emergency room visits increased as well. The seven states (Alaska, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Washington) and D.C. that legalized recreational marijuana use between 2012 and 2016 experienced a combined 16.4 percent increase in pedestrian fatalities for the first half of 2017 while all other states saw a combined 5.8 percent decrease.
What can states do to reverse the trend?
The GHSA report provides a list of suggestions to help reverse the increase in pedestrian accident fatalities including education and enforcement, engineering and policy changes that emphasize safety for pedestrians and drivers equally. The report notes that drivers and policy makers must be educated to pay special attention to the safety of children and older adults on roadways as they are more vulnerable to pedestrian accidents. Older adults are more defenseless because of limited mobility, reduced vision and frailty while children are more susceptible due to insufficient risk perception, limited perceptual judgment, and little pedestrian experience.
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