GHSA Releases Pedestrian Fatality Data Report: What It Means for You

Posted By Regan Zambri Long, PLLC || 17-Apr-2017

The Governors Highway Safety Administration (GHSA) recently released a report on its preliminary 2015 findings on Pedestrian Traffic Fatalities by State. The numbers are both surprising and alarming. Let’s look at a few highlights from the report.

  • Pedestrian fatalities are up an estimated 10 percent nationwide between 2014 and 2015. Twenty-six states reported increases in pedestrian fatalities in 2015, along with the District of Columbia. Roughly 15 percent of all traffic fatalities were pedestrians.
  • Pedestrian fatalities were up 40 percent here in D.C. This figure is startling.
  • Approximately 72 percent of pedestrian fatalities happened after dark. Visibility likely played a huge role in these deaths, while pedestrian distraction and/or intoxication may also have factored into this number.
  • Alcohol played a role in nearly 50 percent of pedestrian deaths in 2013. Only 15 percent of pedestrian deaths were the result of drunk drivers, while 34 percent of the time, the pedestrians themselves were at or near the point of intoxication.

Why the Numbers Went Up

While the GHSA report doesn’t offer concrete data, it does mention several provocative associations. Walking is growing in popularity, which likely means more total pedestrian activity. In other words, maybe the spike in these accidents has less to do with poor road conditions/human behavior—maybe it’s just a statistical reflection of this increase in pedestrian volume. The number of vehicles on the road also went up, by about 3.5 percent during the first half of 2015 versus the same time period in 2014. Another possible prominent factor was increased pedestrian distraction due to the use of mobile phones. Researchers also wonder whether changing weather/climate conditions and average trip duration could partially explain the numbers. Of course, analyzing data like these for actionable insight can be tricky. Just because you find an association between one variable (e.g. average time people spend walking in D.C.) and another (e.g. DUI pedestrian accidents) doesn't mean you can tease out cause-and-effect. (This website shows some entertaining “spurious correlations” to demonstrate this idea.)

How It Applies to You

If you are a driver, be extra mindful of pedestrians. If you walk a lot, reduce your risks by doing the following:

  • Follow the rules. Cross only in crosswalks when the “walk” sign is on so you don’t find yourself in places where drivers don’t expect.
  • Be extra careful at night. Remember that drivers have a more difficult time seeing you at night. Wear light or reflective clothing.
  • Be careful if you’ve been drinking. If your judgment is impaired, call a cab.
  • Put the cell phone away. Your life is more important than answering that text.
  • Make no assumptions. Don’t assume a driver sees you or will make room for you.

For more information on pedestrian safety, check out our posts here and here.

If you or a loved one has been hurt in a pedestrian accident, our D.C. injury attorneys can offer advice and legal assistance. Call us today for a free consultation.

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