Pedestrian deaths see biggest increase in nearly 20 years

Pedestrian deaths surged last year across the U.S., with smartphones, the economy, and weather to blame.

Preliminary data suggests that pedestrian fatalities across the United States surged dramatically last year. According to CBS New York, the report from the Governors Highway Association says that based on data collected from the first six months of last year, it expects nationwide fatal pedestrian accidents to have increased by about 10 percent for all of 2015. That increase would represent the biggest surge in pedestrian deaths since 1996. A number of factors may be behind the increasing number of pedestrian deaths, including low gas prices, an improving economy, healthier living, and smartphone use.

Big jump in pedestrian fatalities

In the first half of 2015 there were 2,368 pedestrians killed in the U.S. compared with 2,232 during the same period in 2014. While those figures represent a six percent increase, officials estimate that total pedestrian fatalities for all of 2015 will be 10 percent higher than the year before due to under reporting early in the year and the fact that pedestrian accidents tend to increase in the latter half of the year.

Pedestrian fatalities also now account for 15 percent of total traffic fatalities across the nation. Pedestrian deaths have not accounted for such a high percentage of traffic fatalities since 1990. Furthermore, New York is, along with California, Texas, and Florida, one of just four states that together account for 42 percent of overall pedestrian fatalities in the U.S.

What's behind the surge?

While analysts are still combing through the data to work out why pedestrian deaths are surging, some tentative explanations have been offered. Low gas prices, an improving economy, and favorable weather last year are all being cited as likely reasons for an increase in automobile use and, by extension, an increase in pedestrian fatalities. Also, a desire to lead a healthier lifestyle may be contributing to an increase in overall pedestrian activity by Americans.

The Governors Highway Association also points to distracted driving and walking as likely contributing factors to the increase, especially with the prevalence of smartphones. Finally, as the New York Daily News reports, the Amalgamated Transit Union, which represents city bus drivers throughout the country, says that poorly designed mirrors on transit buses are also contributing to a number of preventable pedestrian deaths. The union claims that blind spots caused by the mirrors leads to a pedestrian death involving a transit bus once every ten days in the U.S.

Pedestrian accidents

Pedestrian accidents, by their very nature, are more likely to leave victims with serious injuries than would most other types of motor vehicle accidents. Those serious injuries not only cause considerable pain and suffering, but they can also lead to steep medical bills and a long recovery period. A personal injury attorney can help those who have been injured in an accident, including pedestrians who may be able to pursue compensation to help them during their rehabilitation.