People tend to assume that the ins and outs of everyday life become safer over time, but that isn’t always the case. Despite years of declining traffic risk, for example, the trend has reversed in recent years. There have been more serious collisions of all types, including pedestrian crashes.
According to a recent review of 2022 crash statistics, it is currently the most dangerous time on the roads for pedestrians that it has been in the last 40 years. Although the data is incomplete (Oklahoma did not provide pedestrian fatality data for the study), 2022 experienced at least 7,500 pedestrian deaths. As recently as 2009, the annual number of pedestrian fatalities was 4,109.
There is a disproportionate number of pedestrian deaths when looking at their miles traveled (versus miles traveled by motor vehicle operators) and the number of overall traffic fatalities. Pedestrians are simply at elevated risk because they have nothing to protect them from the force of impact with a motor vehicle. They can end up seriously hurt or worse even in collisions involving relatively low speeds. Why is the risk for pedestrians so severe?
Vehicles keep getting bigger
Newer vehicles have technology including backup cameras and sensors that alert drivers of an object’s proximity, and yet the risk of a pedestrian getting hurt in traffic is the highest it has been in four decades in part because of vehicle design trends. One of the factors that experts correlate with increased pedestrian risk is increased vehicle size. The bigger the vehicle, the greater the potential damage to the pedestrian involved in a crash. With large vehicles representing a growing segment of the domestic automotive market, it is a little surprise that pedestrians have more risk on the road because they encounter larger vehicles.
Dangerous habits are on the rise
For the last few years, researchers have noted an increased incidence of very dangerous traffic behaviors, including distracted and drunk driving. Motorists who cruise through a four-way stop or drive at far over the speed limit could potentially cause a crash that could change the course of a pedestrian’s life.
There are numerous other factors that influence pedestrian collision risk, including intoxication, location and timing. Identifying and adjusting one’s habits to account for the most serious traffic risks may benefit those who frequently walk, run or jog on or near public roads.