In today’s day and age life is much more fast paced. With the importance of smartphones in our day to day lives, coupled with the ability to work from home, we have never been more connected than we are right now. While there are numerous benefits to this new interconnected lifestyle there are also major downsides that are now coming to light. From 2009 to present day we are experiencing a sharp rise in pedestrian deaths on our roads. This is strangely uniquely an American problem, as nearly every other country that is comparable to the U.S has seen consistent decreases in pedestrian deaths since 2000. What is causing this, and what can we do to make our roads safer?
Before we can uncover what we think might be the root cause of this increase in pedestrian deaths we need to understand what exactly is happening. In a New York Times Study done by Emily Badger, Ben Blatt, and Josh Katz, they had discovered that in 2009 American roads began to become much more dangerous to pedestrians, especially at night. Roughly 85% of pedestrian fatalities happen when it is dark outside. In fact at times of darkness there are distinct peaks in pedestrian deaths. With these fatalities on the rise it is seemingly undoing decades worth of safety improvements, and the reasons are unfortunately unclear; however, through research on the topic, Emily, Ben, and Josh were able to whittle the cause down to three main outliers. These outliers being: the use of smart phones while driving, America’s always available work culture, and car centric city planning.
Why Smart Phones?
It is no secret that smart phones have became a leading cause of traffic accidents and the number one cause of distracted driving in the United States. According to Statistics from the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) smart phones and distracted driving caused 3,522 deaths in 2021. Smart phones also line up with the timeframe of 2009, as apple unveiled and released the iPhone in 2007, but why are they such a big issue in the United States and not in other comparable places such as Britain, Australia, France, and Canada?
Manual Transmissions and Smart Phones
Here in the United States it is extremely common to drive an automatic car. In fact, in the last year only one percent of all cars that were sold had manual transmissions. But why is that important? When you drive an automatic transmission you have now freed up an additional hand that can be used to drive, or more likely, use a smart phone. This is a uniquely American problem as in other countries the vast majority of cars on the road use a manual transmission. In Europe cars that have a stick shift make up nearly 75% of all cars on the road. This is significant as manual cars require much more focus and attention to drive, which then leads to less time spent on the phone, and a lower likelihood of getting into an accident that could kill a pedestrian.
Spending time on our phones while behind the wheel of a car is never a good idea, and is a major reason in the recent rise in deadly accidents involving pedestrians.
America’s Always Available Culture
America’s “work first” culture fuels a dangerous habit: multitasking behind the wheel. Exhausted and pressed for time, drivers often will juggle emails, texts, and schedules while navigating rush hour traffic, This distracted driving is uniquely American, and contributes significantly to the rising number of pedestrian deaths especially at night.
When leaving work, minds are often preoccupied, whether it’s planning tomorrow’s meetings, coordinating childcare, or even arranging a night out, many Americans attempt to multita
Car Centric City Planning
As populations rise, and prices increase across the United States, it has been very common for people to move out of larger cities into smaller up and coming cities, and typically warmer places also known as sunbelts. These areas are typically much warmer, and much more affordable, according to Forbes the most common states people are moving to are: Texas, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia. While there is nothing wrong with a change of scenery, these states have a much different structure for their cities than larger metropolitan areas like New York, or Philadelphia, as they are built with car first thinking. Most of these states unfortunately have hardly any pedestrian infrastructure and operate primarily on the belief that if a resident wants to get around, they will use a car. This has resulted in less safety developments being created, this includes a lack of sidewalks in cities and suburbs, as well as very few crosswalks which results in increased jay walking.
As most of these areas were built with cars in mind being a pedestrian becomes much more dangerous, and Florida is a key example of this. In Florida pedestrian deaths are up roughly 70%, and cities like Daytona Beach, Orlando, and Tampa, consistently rank in the top 10 most dangerous places for pedestrian safety. In recent years it is becoming increasingly clear that we build our cities for cars, and road ways are designed for speed first and safety second.
What Can Be Done?
This rise in pedestrian deaths is alarming, and should come to us as a wake up call to try and start searching for answers on how to fix it. Unfortunately for now, we do not have all of the answers. The three theories listed above can help explain part of the problem, but there are still several unanswered questions as to why this is happening and how to fix it. However, here at LifeLaw Personal Injury we believe in trying to educate on how you can be as safe as possible, here are some ways you can stay safe as a pedestrian, and try to help lessen the amount of pedestrian deaths every year.
One way that you can help to protect yourself as a pedestrian is to try and avoid walking around or riding your bike at night. Visibility and being seen is a battle as a pedestrian, and it is regrettably a losing one. If you can, try to only walk outside in bright or well lit areas, or while it is bright out. However, we know that sometimes you need to get to your destination while it is dark and we strongly urge you to wear bright or reflective clothing to make you more noticeable to any drivers on the road.
As a driver there are several ways that you can help make the roads safer for the pedestrians around you. Stay focused and aware! When you are behind the wheel try to keep your eyes on the road at all times and avoid using your phone. According to the NHTSA the average time to send or read a text takes your eyes off the road for 5 seconds. If you are driving at 55 mph, that is like driving the entire length of a football field with your eyes closed. Another way you can help is to try and follow the speed limit to the best of your ability as it can allow for much better reaction times if something goes wrong. Most importantly, yield! If a pedestrian is entering the roadway be sure to yield the right of way to them, even if they are jay walking. Wherever you need to be is not more important that the life of someone else, so be sure to yield when you see a pedestrian crossing.
When you are driving it becomes your responsibility to keep the roads safe for you as well as any one else on the road, so please try to drive as carefully as possible. If you do get end up getting into an accident, whether you are a pedestrian or a driver, getting proper legal assistance is crucial. For the best car accident lawyer in Salt Lake City, contact LifeLaw Personal Injury. Our team of injury experts will fight for your best interests, and make sure that you are feeling heard throughout the process. We value your life, and want to make sure that you can get the most out of it after your injury. If you or someone you know has been injured, be sure to contact the best car accident lawyers in Salt Lake City at LifeLaw Personal Injury for a free consultation today!