Pedestrian Safety Risks to be Examined at NTSB Forum

Government transportation safety officials will hold a one-day public forum this week to discuss ways to improve safety for individuals walking along U.S. roadways, as recent data suggests that the number of severe injuries and deaths from pedestrian accidents has continued to rise in recent years.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will host a Pedestrian Safety forum in Washington, D.C. on May 10, organized around four panels that will discuss ways to reduce the risk of injury and deaths through advances in public roadway travel, urban planning and policy, highway design, and vehicle based technology.

The first panel will discuss recent trends that have contributed to the increase in pedestrian injuries and fatalities from automobile accidents, looking at recent trends and underlying effects that cause vehicles to strike pedestrians walking along public roadways. The panel will assess recent accidents involving pedestrians and discuss specific ways to prevent similar situations from occurring.

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The second panel will look at information from the federal, state, and local level, to examine urban planning policies and how changes in their policies could improve pedestrian safety. The policy discussions will be focused on the NTSB “Complete Streets” design, which is creating a development plan while integrating people and place in the planning, design, construction, operation, and maintenance of the local transportation networks.

The third forum will address current highway designs and how safety improvements could prevent veering vehicles from striking individuals on the shoulder of the road. The panel is to specifically discuss countermeasures that may reduce the risks for pedestrians, such as infrastructure cost and funding.

Finally, the panel is scheduled to address vehicle-based solutions for improving pedestrian safety through the use of collision avoidance and vehicle detection technologies that are currently being implemented in vehicles. The panel will look at the current effectiveness of these software’s and discuss how improvements could be made for current and future technology to improve pedestrian safety.

In March, the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) released a new report titled “Pedestrian Traffic Fatalities By State”, which highlighted a 10% increase in pedestrian related traffic fatalities from 2014 through the first six months of 2015. The data indicated that there were a total of 2,463 pedestrian fatalities throughout the first six months of 2015, which is a 10% increase from the 2014 year, which recorded 2,232 fatalities during the same time frame.

The number of traffic-related pedestrian deaths have been inclining steadily for several years. When comparing the first six months of 2015 to an identical analysis in 2009, the GHSA indicated a 19% increase in pedestrian fatalities.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), on average, more than 5,000 pedestrians are killed every year and an estimated 60,000 or more are injured, requiring some sort of medical attention. The agency has launched a series of summits over the last several months to gather new ideas, engage new partners, and generate effective approaches to combat core behavioral issues.

Studies over the last decade have indicated human error contributes to 94% of all automobile accidents, whether fatal or not. The most persistent contributors to human error crash fatalities have been distracted, drowsy, and drunk driving, as well as failure to wear seatbelts.

Mutually, distracted drivers and pedestrians have shown to be responsible for majority of crashes. Often, pedestrians are distracted while crossing intersections or jogging along roadways using smartphones or listening to music.

The NHTSA reports that nearly 3 out of 4 pedestrian deaths occur in urban environments, 70% at non-intersections, 70% during the nighttime, and far too many involve intoxicated drivers or pedestrians. According to the NHTSA data, nearly 50% of the pedestrian related fatalities in 2011 involved a contributing party having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher.

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