Far Too Many Pedestrian Deaths on the Roads of the USA, 2018

It is human nature that if we consider it at all, we tend to think only about ourselves when it comes to highway safety, primarily the chances of us or our loved ones being killed or seriously injured in a car crash. But pedestrians represent about one in six of all people killed on America’s roads and we are all pedestrians at times.

Jay walkers crossing a street.
Hands up anyone who has never crossed a road where we shouldn’t have, quite possibly because we just couldn’t be bothered to walk to a crosswalk. As people get older we might get a bit wiser about this everyday occurrence but then age itself can make it harder to walk all the way to a proper crossing and perhaps all the way back on the other side. This, together with worsening reaction times, can turn the simple act of crossing a street into something deadly. Copyright image, 2018.

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Wheelchair Users are at Greater Risk on Crosswalks

While it is clear that crosswalks must be suitably designed for disabled users, it is equally essential that drivers are always prepared to make it safe for such individuals to cross. Unfortunately, however, far too many drivers are oblivious to the things that require their attention.

A study in the USA found that the fatality rate for people using wheelchairs when crossing roads is 36% higher than for regular pedestrians.

Photograph of a disabled person in a wheelchair on a city crosswalk.
The criteria and adequacy of crosswalks must naturally meet the safety requirements of all users, not just able-bodied walkers. (Copyright image, 2018.)

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Williamsville, NY, is Taking a Lead in Pedestrian Safety in the USA

The new press-button, gantry-style traffic signals on a new, mid-block crosswalk in Williamsville, NY. (Copyright image, 2018.)

With just over 6,000 pedestrian deaths a year [re 2017, NHTSA], the USA sadly has a very poor record in protecting people on foot.

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Disconnected Buttons at New York City Crosswalks Still Frustrate Pedestrians

Instruction sign for an American, button-operated crosswalk.
Clear instructions, but if pedestrians are kept waiting too long some of them will take chances and the whole purpose of safe crosswalks is defeated. (And it’s not just drivers who have places to get to.) Copyright image, 2018.

Back in 2004, it was reported in U.S. national media that the “push-to-cross” buttons at most of New York City’s crosswalks were disconnected to prevent pedestrians from interrupting traffic flow, and it has just been revealed that now, in 2018, an even greater proportion of the City’s crosswalks have non-functional buttons.

The stated purpose of delaying pedestrians in this manner is to keep vehicles moving and reduce traffic jams.  This may be all well and good when traffic is busy but this approach, when used around the clock, inevitably will annoy pedestrians.

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A Child’s Critical Injuries Through Not Wearing a Cycle Helmet

This is just one fine example of the countless excellent and usually unsung tasks done by on-duty and off-duty police officers, every single day of the year.  It has been posted here with full permission from its author, Temporary Sergeant Karen Stanton, whose important goal is to highlight the crucial importance of cyclists wearing helmets.  If you are not convinced, check out the image of the boy’s head scan, below.

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More and Better Crosswalks in the USA Would Save Many Lives

Just a few days ago, on June 11, 2018, NYSDOT Acting Commissioner Paul Karas announced a $62 million investment in the Pedestrian Safety Action Plan, here in our own home state of New York .   This multi-agency initiative will include the Department of Health, DMV, Capital District Transportation Authority and local enforcement agencies.  This is, of course, to be warmly welcomed, but let’s get straight to the point, the USA has a stunningly bad track record for pedestrian injuries and deaths, with almost exactly six thousand being killed nationwide, and a vastly greater number being injured, during the last statistical year alone.

Photograph of a crosswalk location sign in the USA
Crosswalk location sign, USA. (Copyright image, 2012.)

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A Catastrophic Increase in Deaths of Pedestrians in the USA

Excerpt:  “…Pedestrian deaths have jumped 46 percent since reaching their lowest point in 2009, as pedestrian crashes have become both deadlier and more frequent. The increase has been mostly in urban or suburban areas, at non-intersections, on arterials — busy roads designed mainly to funnel vehicle traffic toward freeways — and in the dark, a new IIHS study shows. Crashes were increasingly likely to involve SUVs and high-horsepower vehicles…

Photograph of a pedestrian on a crosswalk.
Despite erroneous official claims that America’s road safety is improving, deaths of pedestrians alone have increased by almost 50 percent since 2009 — an entirely unacceptable situation. (Copyright photo, 2017.)

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Safe Cycling is a Two-Way Street

Regrettably, there are many things that drivers frequently do that make things very unsafe for people on bicycles, but of course that isn’t the full story.

A photograph of bicyclists who sensibly are in conspicuous clothing, but only one is being wise enough to wear a safety helmet.
Cyclists who sensibly are in conspicuous clothing, but only one is being wise enough to wear a safety helmet. (Copyright image.)

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Collisions with Horse-Drawn Buggies in Amish Country

According to national figures, it would appear that the number of collisions between motorized vehicles and horse-drawn buggies is not changing significantly, but straighter, faster rural roads combined with a growth in Amish populations is causing concern amongst highway safety professionals.

Photo of an An Amish buggy in Lancaster County
An Amish buggy in Lancaster County (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

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For Bicyclists, Wearing a Yellow Reflective Jacket Cuts Injuries by up to 55%

Bicycles are involved in many crashes, injuries and deaths, and there should be a focus on preventing these events from happening.

With support from the Danish foundation TrygFonden, the Traffic Research Group at Aalborg University has completed the first randomised controlled trial (RCT) of the safety effect of high-visibility bicycle clothing.

Photo of a cyclist standing out from the crowd, in a bright yellow safety jacket.
Cyclist’s Yellow Safety Jacket. Photo used here by permission of Harry Lahrmann, Associate Professor at Aalborg University.  Photographer: Tor Asbjørn Thirslund

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