Lewis Diuguid

Lewis Diuguid: Walking and texting add to more fatalities for pedestrians

Walking and texting can lead to injuries and death particularly in busy cities like New York. Pedestrians walked on Monday near the New York Stock Exchange.
Walking and texting can lead to injuries and death particularly in busy cities like New York. Pedestrians walked on Monday near the New York Stock Exchange. Bloomberg

It takes a lot of practice to be able to walk on a city street and text at the same time.

A lot of people do it. But new data now show that like texting and driving, texting and walking can be quite dangerous.

A report released by the Governors Highway Safety Association, representing the governors’ highway safety offices, shows that pedestrian deaths increased about 10 percent last year over 2014, partly because of cellphones distracting drivers and pedestrians. More people are walking because of the warmer weather, and more drivers are on the road because of the improved economy, more people commuting to work and gasoline prices are lower, encouraging more travel.

“The good news is walking is becoming an increasingly popular mode of transportation,” the report notes. But getting from place to place safety is the challenge.

“According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS), in 2013, an estimated 4 million Americans reported walking to work in the past week,” the report said. “This number has risen 21 percent since 2005, the first year of available data, when an estimated 3.3 million people reported their primary method of commuting to work in the past week was by walking.”

The increase in the pedestrian fatalities came from an analysis of traffic fatalities from the first half of 2015 extrapolated for the full year. There were 2,368 pedestrians killed in the first six months in the U.S. compared with 2,232 in the same period in 2014.

Traffic deaths had been falling for the last 10 years. But they were up an estimated 8 percent in 2015. Pedestrian fatalities have been increasing since 2005 and now amount to 15 percent of all traffic fatalities.

Pedestrian deaths last accounted for such a large share of traffic fatalities 25 years ago.

Close to 75 percent of pedestrian deaths occurred after dark, and a third of the fatalities involved people who had been drinking, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports. In comparison, 15 percent of drivers in those crashes had a blood alcohol content at or above the legal limit.

Pedestrians fared worse in more populated areas. California, New York, Texas and Florida had 42 percent of the pedestrian fatalities in the first half of 2015. States with the highest rate of pedestrian fatalities per 100,000 residents were Florida, 1.35; Arizona, 1.27; Delaware, 1.27; South Carolina, 1.12; Mississippi, 1.07; Oregon, 1.04; New Mexico, 1.01; and the District of Columbia, 1.04.

Kansas had 0.79 rate of pedestrian fatalities in 2014 per 100,000 population. Missouri’s was higher at 1.07. The U.S. average was 1.53.

The report recommends increasing pedestrian safety through targeted traffic enforcement, engineering countermeasures, public education and vehicle design changes. Some possibilities include traffic islands for pedestrians, more sidewalks and pedestrian overpasses and underpasses, optimized traffic signaling and new signaling where needed, improved street lighting, high visibility crosswalks and flashing beacons mounted to pedestrian crossing signs.

The increasing number of fatalities certainly points out that pedestrians need to be more careful and pay more attention to their surroundings. Getting from one place to another safely has to be everyone’s No. 1 goal.