Distracted Pedestrian Deaths on the Rise

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Deaths related to distracted driving are on the rise and to counter that, many states enacted laws that penalize drivers using smartphones while behind the wheel. However, a new report from the Governors Highway Safety Association indicates that nearly 6,000 pedestrians died in automobile accidents and the research indicates that pedestrians distracted by smartphones played a role in dramatic increases in those deaths over the last three years.

The research behind the report indicates that the 6,000 deaths – which represents a similar rate as 2016 but still represents an over 15 percent increase over 2014 – could be attributed to several things including poor headlights on vehicles, the use of marijuana by drivers and pedestrians, and of course, the ubiquitous smartphone.

“We’ve got distracted drivers and we’ve got distracted pedestrians, and that is a deadly combination,” said Rebecca Lindland, a Kelley Blue Book auto analyst who was interviewed by the USA Today for its article.

75 percent of pedestrian deaths occur at night indicating that vehicle lighting and road illumination has not developed along with all the other driver warning and assistance devices. One of the problems is an unwillingness by automobile manufacturers to adopt motorized headlights that curve with the roadway. Additionally, researchers noticed a correlation between an increase in pedestrian deaths in states where recreational marijuana use was legalized. Researchers warn that this correlation does not equal causation, but the overall implications are clear: distractions for drivers and pedestrians are going up, not down.

To try and legislate a reduction in these deaths, several cities are instituting bans on walking while looking at a smartphone and crossing the street with headphones in your ears. The cities of Montclair, CA and Honolulu, HI have done just that, hoping to see a drop-off in the numbers. Whether laws such as these are enforced enough to be a deterrent remains to be seen.

Implementation of new laws can be a good way to try and encourage individuals to take notice of their activities, make them more aware of how distracted they can be when walking, and help them understand just how dangerous that can be. However, both pedestrians and drivers must be personally responsible and recognize that being distracted on the road or sidewalk puts them that much closer to injury.

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