Following data revealing pedestrian traffic deaths have increased in recent years, federal safety officials have launched the first-ever pedestrian safety campaign in an effort to raise awareness of the current challenges in keeping cyclists and those walking safe.
The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced the first ever National Pedestrian Safety Month campaign, which will launch on Tuesday, beginning with a virtual meeting to discuss ideas and challenges leading to the spike in pedestrian fatalities.
U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao will lead the virtual event, and will be accompanied by members of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), and members of the State and Local Program Director for America Walks.
They will discuss possible causes for increasing pedestrian fatality rates and identify policy, roadway design ideas and technology that could reduce the rate of vehicle collisions with pedestrians.
In February the GHSA released the 2019 Pedestrian Traffic Fatalities by State report. Preliminary data indicated a 5% increase in auto accidents that resulted in a pedestrian death, reaching the highest levels recorded in more than three decades.
The rising rate of pedestrian fatalities has become a major focus of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). It released a series of safety recommendations in September 2018, calling for the NHTSA, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) to collaborate on efforts to produce better standards to will protect pedestrians.
Studies have suggested a number of contributing factors may be causing the rise in pedestrian deaths, including the need for safer road crossings, unsafe driving behaviors, the increased presence of sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and the tremendous growth of smartphone use, which is a significant source of distracted driving.
As part of the NTSB 2019 through 2020 Most Wanted List, officials are pushing to increase the development and presence of collision avoidance systems such as Forward Collision Warning (FCW) and Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB), which are projected to be able to save thousands of pedestrian lives annually.
Officials stress the importance of driver awareness during the campaign as families nationwide prepare to send their children out for Halloween night trick-or-treating in the coming weeks.
A study by the National Safety Council (NSC) found children under the age of 13 years old are more than twice as likely to be hit by a car and killed on Halloween than on any other day of the year.
Since the most popular time for trick-or-treating for children is between the hours of 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., children under the age of 12 should not be alone at night without adult supervision, and trick-or-treaters should be instructed to always be careful when walking through cross walks. Given that recent research has found pedestrian detection systems are virtually nonexistent at night time, pedestrians are at an increased risk walking along roadways and intersections.