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Kids walking in cross walk as a car is coming

Although 2018 saw a slight decrease in traffic deaths as a whole, there has unfortunately been an uptick in pedestrian and bicycle deaths.

In 2009, pedestrians only accounted for 12 percent of traffic accident related deaths. By 2017, 16 percent of all car or truck accident fatality victims were pedestrians. Based on preliminary numbers, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) was expecting a four percent increase in pedestrian deaths and a 10 percent increase in bicycle deaths for 2018.

What is causing this sudden spike in pedestrian and cyclist deaths in the United States? Evidence suggests two important influences. The first is a growing trend that’s affecting all accident stats – distracted driving. The second is a societal movement away from driving and towards walking and biking in cities that have been designed specifically for vehicular traffic.

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

There have been many great improvements in vehicle and driver safety over the past half a century, resulting in a decrease from roughly 55,000 deaths a year to approximately 40,000 a year.

Groups such as Moms Against Drunk Driving (MAD) have pushed legislation and education campaigns that have drastically reduced the frequency of drunk driving and the associated deaths. Back in the mid ‘70s, nearly 60 percent of all traffic deaths were related to alcohol. In 2016, only about 28 percent of traffic fatalities were attributed to alcohol impairment.

Laws that mandate seat belts and standard airbags, along with better vehicle components and structural technology, have made traveling in cars and trucks significantly safer. The NHTSA estimates 14,955 lives were saved by seat belts in 2017.

What has not gotten safer, however, are the modern distractions that can easily plague today’s drivers. Like drinking and driving, distracted driving is a choice. Younger, inexperienced drivers are more likely to have their driving competency significantly degraded by distractions, and they are also the demographic most prone to being distracted while driving.

The problem is becoming so serious that many states, including Georgia, are illegalizing the act of using your phone while driving unless you are doing so handsfree.

Bicycle and Pedestrian Accidents

Although overall traffic fatalities may be going down, bicyclist and pedestrian deaths are increasing as a percentage of overall traffic deaths. This is in large part driven by big cities, where being a pedestrian or bicyclist can be a dangerous proposition.

Approximately 46 percent of New York City’s traffic deaths in 2017 were pedestrians. San Francisco only had 20 traffic deaths in 2017, but 14 of them were pedestrians and two were cyclists. In Washington, D.C., traffic deaths were down but pedestrian and bicycle deaths ticked up an alarming 20 percent in 2018.

In fact, the major decline in traffic fatalities are almost entirely occurring in rural America. Urban traffic deaths have gone up 17 percent in the past decade.

One of the contributors is likely the increasing emphasis on alternative, non-vehicular means of transportation. Many cities are implementing policies and marketing campaigns that encourage people to bike or walk rather than ride in cars.

The problem is most cities have been designed for vehicle traffic, and most roads have yet to be modified to accommodate an increased volume of bicycle and pedestrian traffic. Inadequately sized bike and pedestrian lanes, high-speed vehicular traffic and blind spots are all factors that contribute to car and bicycle or pedestrian accidents, and it will likely require a change in roadway infrastructure, speed limits and traffic laws to start reducing cyclist and pedestrian injuries and fatalities.

Were You or a Loved One Injured by a Distracted Driver in the Atlanta Area?

Pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers injured by distracted drivers or other reckless motorists are entitled to compensation for their medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering. Families of pedestrian, bicyclists and vehicle passengers killed by distracted drivers should also be compensated for the wrongful death of their loved one.

The insurance companies will do their best to shift the blame from the responsible driver and try to argue that you or your loved one share some or all of the accident liability. That’s why it’s likely worth your time to speak with a bicycle or pedestrian accident injury attorney. Call the Law Office of Johnny Phillips at (833) 564-6693 to discuss the details of your case and learn about your legal options.