The number of pedestrians killed in traffic accidents has risen dramatically in recent years, increasing by 46% between 2009 and 2016, according to the findings of a new report that indicates pedestrian accident deaths now account for 16% of all crash fatalities.
Researchers from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) released a study on May 8, which examined the annual number of fatalities and pedestrian accident involvements in recent years, outlining a number of steps that could help address the recent problems.
Since 1975, when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) began recording traffic fatalities involving pedestrians, the average number of individuals killed in vehicle crashes as a pedestrian has decreased by about 20 percent. However, data from the last decade has fluctuated with spikes of incidents.
Researchers compared the annual amount of pedestrian related crashes since 2009, when crash rates were at their lowest, to the most recent available data in 2016, and found that not only did the number of pedestrian fatalities rise significantly, but the percentage of incidents have become deadlier.
Pedestrian accidents have become more deadly per occurrence, with deaths per 100 crash involvements increasing 29 percent since 2010. The severity of the crashes have been attributed to several factors including vehicle type, speeds, location and lighting of the events.
From 2009 to 2016, pedestrian deaths increased 54 percent in urban areas including both cities and suburbs. A 67 percent increase was recorded on arterials, a 50 percent increase at non-intersections, and a 56 percent increase attributed to dark and low lit areas.
Researchers identified a link between the increased deadliness of the crashes and the increased use of SUV’s. The increase in popularity of SUV’s on U.S. roadways has statistically made them more involved in these types of accidents. Given their increased size and mass, pedestrian accidents involving SUVs appear to often be more deadly than with lighter, smaller vehicles.
The IIHS made several recommendations to decrease pedstrian fatalities, such as adding curb extensions or median crossing islands to shorten the distance people have to walk and deter them from crossing outside of designated areas in so-called “hot spots” that are the scene of frequent fatalities.
Other recommendations included adding sidewalks and painting clear cross walk lanes for pedestrians. IIHS researchers suggest all cross walk should be equipped with hybrid beacons that remain dark until a pedestrian pushes a button. The beacons then flash yellow before activating two solid red lights to allow the pedestrian to cross.