[tabi] Jump in pedestrian accidents puzzling

  • From: "Allison and Chip Orange" <acorange@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <tabi@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 9 Dec 2011 15:04:14 -0500

from today's Democrat:


Jump in pedestrian accidents puzzling
By Larry Copeland, USA TODAY 

The USA is getting riskier for people on foot, and experts
aren't sure why.
New National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data show pedestrian
fatalities
rose 4.2% in 2010 over the previous year. The number of pedestrians hurt in
motor
vehicle crashes soared 19%, to 70,000.
Experts are puzzled by the increase, which comes as road fatalities in most
categories
are dropping. The jump follows four straight years of falling pedestrian
deaths,
and a 14% decrease in pedestrian fatalities from 2000 to 2009.
"Quite frankly, I don't know why they went up," says James Hedlund, a former
NHTSA
official who researched pedestrian safety in January for the Governors
Highway Safety
Association. "Nobody knows. As far as I can tell, nobody has studied the
issue. The
data (are) too new." Possible explanations:
u Walkers are put at risk by the preponderance of wide, high-speed roads
designed
to move large numbers of vehicles but not with pedestrians in mind.
"What we have seen anecdotally around the country is that more people are
walking,
biking, trying to get to their destination by means other than a car," says
David
Goldberg, spokesman for Transportation for America, a safety advocacy
coalition that
reports annually on the deadliest cities for pedestrians (the three worst
are all
in Florida: Orlando, Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater and Jacksonville).
"What we do know is that conditions have not improved substantially for
pedestrians.
The road design problems we pointed out in our report earlier this year are
still
out there."
u Low-income residents and immigrants have added population in suburban
areas.
u More pedestrians are distracted by cellphones and other handheld
communication
devices. There has been only anecdotal evidence of "pedestrian distraction"
as a
factor in fatalities, such as a 31-year-old woman killed in March in San
Ysidro,
Calif., while crossing the street in a crosswalk. Police said she was on her
cellphone
and ignored a red light.
"Nobody has good data," says Richard Wener, professor of environmental
psychology
at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University, who collaborated on
studies
led by Jack Nasar, an Ohio State University professor. One obstacle to
obtaining
good data is police are not required to indicate whether a victim was using
a phone
or texting. "My guess is that's going to change," he says.
Drinking also is a major factor in pedestrian fatalities. Alcohol-impairment
- of
the driver or the pedestrian - was involved in 48% of all pedestrian
fatalities in
2009, according to NHTSA.

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