Acadiana saw two pedestrian fatalities at the end of 2019, the result of motorists striking pedestrians who were walking near the roadway at night. All pedestrian and automobile accident deaths are tragedies that should never occur. The personal injury team at Joseph Joy and Associates is here to help you recover what’s owed to you if you or a loved one is injured by a negligently operated motorist or truck.
A new 44-page report from the Governors’ Highway Safety Association (GHSA) is making some dire predictions about the number of pedestrian fatalities. After reviewing the first half of 2019, it is now projecting a 5% increase in the number of pedestrians killed during the full 2019 calendar year. According to the GHSA, when the data is fully tallied, it will show that 6,590 pedestrian fatalities occurred in 2019. That represents the highest number in more than 30 years and approximately 300 additional pedestrian fatalities, a 5% increase from 2018.
Louisiana Pedestrian Safety
Where did Louisiana rank in 2019? The news shows some promise. Our state ranked better than the previous year. Unfortunately, Louisiana was among the worst in 2018. In the first six months of 2018, Louisiana had 76 pedestrian fatalities. Our state saw only 64 pedestrian deaths in the first six months of 2019. That represents a 16% decrease.
As far as pedestrian fatalities per 100,000 people, six states, including Louisiana, Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Mississippi reported double digit declines in both the number and percent change in pedestrian fatalities from the same period in 2018.
Louisiana had 1.38 Pedestrian Fatalities per 100,000 population, ranking our state #6 in the country. Vermont had the lowest amount with only 0.18 per hundred-thousand people.
Louisiana had 3.5 Pedestrian Fatalities per 100,000, ranking our state #2 in the country.
Five states – Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia and Texas – accounted for almost half (47%) of all pedestrian deaths during the first six months of 2019.
The annual “Spotlight on Highway Safety” offers a first look at state and national trends in 2019 pedestrian traffic deaths. GHSA uses this data to assist states and territories as they work to improve traffic safety in the U.S. Here are some interesting observations reported by the association:
- Most pedestrian fatalities take place on local roads, at night and away from intersections, suggesting the need for safer road crossings and increased efforts to make pedestrians and vehicles more visible. During the past 10 years, the number of nighttime pedestrian fatalities increased by 67%, compared to a 16% increase in daytime pedestrian fatalities.
- Many unsafe driving behaviors – such as speeding, distracted and drowsy driving – pose risks to pedestrians, and alcohol impairment by the driver and/or pedestrian was reported in nearly half of traffic crashes that resulted in pedestrian fatalities in 2018.
- Pedestrians struck by a large SUV are twice as likely to die as those struck by a car. Although passenger cars are the largest category of vehicles in fatal pedestrian crashes, the number of pedestrian fatalities over the past decade involving SUVs increased at a faster rate – 81% – than passenger cars, which increased by 53%.
Why are there so many pedestrian fatalities?
According to the report, alcohol impairment — for the driver and/or pedestrian — was reported in about half of traffic crashes that resulted in pedestrian fatalities in 2018. One-third of fatally injured pedestrians ages 16 and older with known test results had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 grams per deciliter (g/dL) or higher. A total of 2,015 pedestrians killed in traffic crashes in 2018 had BACs of 0.08 or higher. An estimated 16% of drivers involved in fatal pedestrian crashes with known test results had a BAC of 0.08 or higher
Warmer temperatures could contribute to the recent rise in pedestrian fatalities by encouraging more nighttime outdoor activity (including walking). These higher temperatures are also associated with increased alcohol consumption, which increases the risk of fatal pedestrian collisions.
Regarding cellphone use, which can be a significant source of distraction for all road users, the reported number of smartphones in active use in the U.S. increased by 4% from 2017 to 2018, and by more than 400% from 2009 to 2018. The amount of wireless data usage in the U.S. increased by 82% from 2017 to 2018, and by more than 7,000% from 2009 to 2018.
Although the surge in smartphone use coincides with a sharp rise in pedestrian fatalities during the same period, the association is reluctant to link the two, stating, “there is a lack of evidence to establish a definitive link. This may be due in part to the inability of police crash investigators to accurately capture momentary distraction caused by smartphones, many of which are mounted on vehicle dashboards, on windshields and in cupholders, or to determine if pedestrians were glancing at phone screens. In addition, 1 in 5 pedestrian fatalities occur in hit-and-run crashes, in which the role of driver distraction is unknown.”
The fact that pedestrian deaths as a percentage of total motor vehicle crash deaths have increased steadily in recent years (from 12% to 16%) could reflect, in part, the fact that passenger vehicles have become increasingly safer for vehicle occupants through design changes and supplemental safety equipment, thereby decreasing the chance of fatal injuries.
Pedestrians, the report notes, do not benefit from occupant-oriented vehicle crashworthiness improvements, and thus could account for an increasingly larger share of total traffic fatalities.
“The movement toward equipping more vehicles with automatic braking and pedestrian-detection technologies could help reduce pedestrian collisions. The finding that persons ages 45-54 account for the largest number of fatally injured pedestrians with BACs greater than or equal to 0.08% (followed by the 55-64 age group) indicates that alcohol impairment is not just a young person’s problem, as some may perceive.”
It is not surprising that approximately 75% of pedestrian fatalities occur at night. From 2009 to 2018, the number of nighttime pedestrian fatalities increased by 67%, compared to a 16% increase in daytime pedestrian fatalities. The growing prevalence of nighttime pedestrian fatalities suggests a need to prioritize engineering and enforcement countermeasures that can improve safety at night (e.g., improved street lighting, nighttime enforcement patrols).
What is Louisiana doing to improve pedestrian safety?
The report says that the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development participates in FHWA’s STEP program for implementing systemic application of cost-effective countermeasures to reduce pedestrian fatalities. Under the STEP program, the state has implemented the Safe Routes to Public Places program as well as through a Complete Streets approach that saw the installation of 21.4 miles of sidewalk, 16.3 miles of multi-use path and 44 pedestrian pushbuttons with countdown signal heads. Louisiana funds various programs to educate pedestrians of various age groups in the two FHWA focus cities on the “rules of the road” and on safe navigation for these vulnerable road users. Additionally, Louisiana funded the creation of videos to be deployed statewide to educate both the pedestrian and the motorist on sharing the roadways. Read the report to see how our state compares to efforts in other states.
The Association is advocating a comprehensive approach to pedestrian safety that includes:
- Emergency medical response
“Enforcement, engineering, education and emergency medical response programs should incorporate the latest advances in technology and best practices, and these programs must be tailored to the needs of state and local communities, ” the report says.
The Governors Highway Safety Association is a nonprofit association representing the highway safety offices of states, territories, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Its members are appointed by their Governors to administer federal and state highway safety funds and implement state highway safety plans.
If you’ve sustained injury as a pedestrian or know someone who has been injured due someone else’s negligence, contact us at Joseph Joy and Associates in Lafayette and we’ll assess your case. Call us at (337) 232-8123 for an appointment.