The bad news is out. Fatal pedestrian accidents are on the rise. As healthy and often necessary walking can be, it also brings new and dangerous concerns when we are walking near vehicles of any kind. About four million people walk to work these days. That is good. It gets cars off the road and is healthy for most walkers. Some walkers must be on foot to work for economic reasons. Many of us remember the amazing man who walked 21 miles to and from his Detroit factory job. A GoFundMe bought him a car and raised significant cash for him. He had no choice but to walk that great distance to get to his job. Other pedestrians walk to work because they prefer it and still others walk for health.
We don’t want to avoid walking out of fear that we could be hurt in a debilitating accident or worse. Unfortunately, this past year has the dubious distinction of having the highest percentage increase of any year before in pedestrian fatalities both in Georgia and around the country. This disturbing trend has been on the upswing for several years. But in 2015 the rise is as much as ten percent according to the annual Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA). The GHSA issues its Spotlight on Highway Safety Report which is compiled using information provided by state highway safety agencies. The agencies are reporting higher numbers of pedestrian fatalities than in the history of record keeping which began in 1975.
The upward trend is clearly a major safety issue for Americans. Although Georgia is not at the very top of the list, every state with large urban centers has a greater likelihood of pedestrian fatality. The states with the highest number of pedestrian issues are New Mexico, Florida, Delaware, Nevada, Louisiana, South Carolina and Arizona. The situation is not hopeless, but steps must be taken to alleviate the upward trend.
A variety of approaches are said by the experts to be necessary to reverse this trend. These include the enforcement of speeding laws and the reduction of distracted driving and DUI. Another approach is to look at engineering and in particular, the safety around intersections. Communities are taking audits to bring awareness of particularly dangerous intersections or roads in which pedestrians are crossing, and to seek ways to make drivers more aware of those walking. This can be accomplished with such efforts as more lights and other controls and warnings such as flashing crosswalks. Finally, the importance of education cannot be underestimated. We see examples of drivers failing to think ahead and speeding through crosswalks where a bus might have just left pedestrians off. Drivers need to be reminded that slowing their speed at night and through intersections is critically important to walking safety.
Another area of concern is the rise in bicycle accidents which goes hand in hand in a very real sense with pedestrian accidents. Anyone on a bicycle or on foot is at greater risk than ever before with being hit and seriously injured or being struck and losing life. The number of distractions for drivers seems to increase year to year along with these dangers. These two developments seem clearly connected.
Scholle Law is committed to the safety of Atlanta area pedestrians. We want to see our communities work to ensure the safety of all walkers. We represent those who have been injured or harmed, but we want accidents and injuries to be avoided if at all possible. We are committed to doing all we can to help in this effort and we hope all our readers do the same.