First of all, be very careful when crossing the street. I know that your mother probably shouted that at you every time you left the house when you were a child, and it may seem like redundant advice, but recent statistics show that some people are not listening.

  • Two weeks ago in Paramus, NJ, a young pedestrian was hit by an SUV while crossing Route 17 by Paramus Park Mall. She was illegally crossing a 6 lane highway, when an overpass with a sidewalk was less than 100 feet away.
  • We had a tragedy in Warwick last November, where a pedestrian was walking to her volunteer position at the local hospital, assumed that drivers would see her and stop as she proceeded into the crosswalk, and she was hit by a local resident who was heading home from work. Sun glare off of the front window of the auto was cited as reason for the collision. 
  • Search “Pedestrian Hit” on Google and click on the “News” category and not only will you receive over 200,000 hits, but new news stories appear every few minutes.
  • And just outside the window of our Corporate Headquarters which is located on the corner of one of the busiest intersections in Warwick NY, I hear an ongoing screech of tires as drivers and pedestrians meet each other on the street and decide who will yield to whom.

But I don’t need to listen from my office desk to see how dangerous crossing the street is becoming; when the final total is calculated, the annual Governors Highway Safety Association is projecting a staggering 10% increase in pedestrian fatalities for 2015.

According to Dr. Heather Rothenberg and Richard Retting of Sam Schwartz Consulting who compiled the statistical information for analysis, “We are projecting the largest year to year increase in pedestrian fatalities since national records have been kept, and therefore we are quite alarmed.”

A bit of background: In 1975, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration formed (FARS) the Fatality Analysis Reporting System so that lethal injuries suffered from motor vehicle accidents can be collected and examined. The information is culled from nationwide census providing NHTSA, Congress and the American public yearly data.

Although no one can pin down why the rise in fatalities, there are several factors that can be contributing to the increase:

  1. Vehicle Travel - Increased by 3.5 percent in the first half of 2015. Cheap gas prices, high airfares, and more of the population receiving their driver's license equals more vehicles on the road. 
  2. Pedestrians Travel - An increasing emphasis on fitness and wellness, as well as a return to city/urban lifestyle has placed more walkers on the streets.
  3. Time Management and Stress - Pressure, tension and a "beat the clock" expectation, have led to a sped up world. Drivers stuck in traffic seek short cuts though less traveled roadways and attempt to beat the red light.  Pedestrians late for work or school or an appointment take risks to get to their destinations. People just don't wait which can lead to disastrous results.
  4. Distractions - The Number One Distraction for Both Drivers and Pedestrians ...... Smart Phones. Wonderful technology that gives the consumer everything they need at their fingertips. Unfortunately in our desire to know exactly what is going on, and be as up to date as possible, people are looking down at screens, when they should be looking forward at where they are going. Even hands free devices in cars

 So what to do to decrease that horrible fatality statistic so that it does not reoccur in 2016?

Broadly:

  • Various states including New York, are implementing campaigns to inform the public of the increase in fatalities on the roadways.
  • Funding for engineering measures to reduce automobile speeds and make pedestrians more visible has also been proposed by various state governments.

Individually: 

  • Place the smartphone "out of reach" when driving or walking. Place it in the trunk of the car, bottom of your backpack, deep inside the purse. Remove the distraction.
  • WALKERS: When using a crosswalk, WAIT for the autos to stop before you proceed into the road. DO NOT assume that drivers are going to stop, even though the law says that the pedestrian has the right of way. Remember the old childhood chant, "Cross at the Green, Not In Between." If walking at night, wear reflective material and bright colored clothing.
  • DRIVERS: Always assume that it is a possibility that a pedestrian could simply walk out into the path of your car, especially in congested areas. People are always in such a hurry that jaywalking and crossing against the light seem to be business as usual. You need to keep your eyes on the road, slow down, focus.

For more information and safety tips, click on the links below:

http://exchange.aaa.com/safety/pedestrian-safety/tips-pedestrian-safety/#.VvQegsdZb8k

http://www.pedbikeinfo.org/community/tips_pedestrian.cfm

http://www.nhtsa.gov/Pedestrians