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. Check out the TABI resource web page at http://acorange.home.comcast.net/TABI and please make suggestions for new material. if you'd like to unsubscribe you can do so through the freelists.org web interface, or by sending an email to the address tabi-request@xxxxxxxxxxxxx with the word "unsubscribe" in the subject.