Far Too Many Pedestrians are Killed in the USA but it Could be Improved

It is a very saddening fact that pedestrian safety on roads and highways in the USA is well below the standard it should be, and far too many people are killed as a result.

The following was published by NHTSA on Facebook on 7 September, 2017:

  NHTSA  7 hrs
Pedestrian fatalities totaled 5,376 in 2015, up 10% from 2014. Walk on sidewalks whenever they are available.
Photo of pedstrians on a busy crosswalk
NHTSA image

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The first question to be asked is why, in September 2017, no statistics — not even preliminary versions — have yet been published for 2016, and we are still forced to rely on 2015 figures.  Could it be anything to do with the fact that in 2016, according to the National Safety Council, road deaths in America went back up above a truly disastrous 40,000?
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The fact is that 5,376 pedestrian deaths in 2015 is a truly calamitous figure but it is worse than this.  Here on the ADoNA website, we are already aware, for example, that the number of pedestrian deaths in California increased by almost six percent in 2016, to a horrifying state record of 900, so if this increase is even just partially mirrored in other states, the total number of pedestrian deaths for the nation last year will undoubtedly also be higher — the reason we mentioned year 2016 statistics, above.
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These terrible tragedies could certainly be reduced if pedestrians were simply given the respect and protection they deserve.
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So what is the weakness in the current American system?  The answer is that drivers have always been given far too much priority in the USA, as though they have some sort of right not to have their journeys briefly interrupted just for the sake of making pedestrians safer.
If pedestrian safety in the USA was given just equal priority to drivers’ convenience, there would be thousands of mid-block crosswalks all around the country, but instead there are how many?
 
A photo of a very badly fafded, almost invisible crosswalk on a busy rural road.
Where crosswalks do exist away from intersections, they must obviously be much better marked than this one, which also had no signs. Can you even see it, just past the pedestrian?  Copyright image.
Given how far it can be between crossroad-type intersections on many urban roads — sometimes many hundreds of yards — how reasonable is it to make pedestrians walk all that way, simply to cross the road?  But they must, it’s the law!  And if they literally do want to just cross the road, at a given point, then they have to walk all the way back from the intersection crosswalk, too.
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And what if it is raining hard, or the pedestrian is elderly or has other difficulties walking.  What if it’s a young mother with two or three children?
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Not having adequate mid-block crosswalks is a trigger for making people cross the road unsafely.  Hands up if YOU have never done it!
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The result is far too many completely unnecessary pedestrian deaths.
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There’s more to it than this.  There’s also the question of letting vehicles park right up to the edge of the crosswalk, effectively blocking drivers’ views of pedestrians and vice versa, something that is especially dangerous when the pedestrians are children.  And there’s the issue of overtaking at crosswalks, too, but these aspects can be discussed in future posts.
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For now, though, it is long overdue that pedestrians were simply given equal rights and the safety they deserve:  Mid-block crosswalks, very clearly marked and signed, and with central island safety zones and signal-controlled where appropriate!

Author: EddieWren

Eddie Wren is the CEO and Chief Instructor at Advanced Drivers of North America. His driver safety background is given at: http://www.advanceddrivers.com/ceochief-instructors-resumecvbio/

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