New Vehicles Are Safer, But Roadway Deaths Are Increasing. Learn Why, And What Safety Experts Say We Can Do To Help.
New vehicles today are safer than any other point in history thanks to national car safety standards. So how is it that roadway fatalities are increasing?
Car-related fatalities have been on the rise over the last decade, deaths of pedestrians and cyclists have seen the sharpest rise — over 60% between 2011 and 2022, the latest complete data available according to new studies.
Safety officials say this is due to a number of factors, including:
- The rising popularity of larger vehicles like SUVs and pickup trucks, which are more likely to kill or seriously injure pedestrians and cyclists in a crash. The average size and height of new vehicles has increased significantly in recent decades. This makes it more difficult for drivers to see pedestrians and cyclists, especially when making turns. Even more, larger vehicles are more likely to strike pedestrians in the head and vital organs.
- The fact that new cars are often equipped with touchscreens that connect to the driver’s phone, which can be just as distracting as using a cell phone while driving.
The U.S. first began crash testing cars in the 1970s, and it implemented the 5-star rating system in 1993, administered by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The program valuates how vehicles perform in crash tests. It conducts frontal, side and rollover tests because these types account for the majority of crashes on America’s roadways. However, the current rating system only considers the safety of people inside the vehicle, not outside of it.
Safety proponents argue that the NHTSA should include a vehicle’s risk of killing a pedestrian in its safety rating system. This would help better inform drivers of the dangers they may pose to others on the road. They argue that this would help consumers make more informed choices when buying a vehicle and would also encourage automakers to design safer vehicles for everyone on the road. They also say automakers should be required to design vehicles with better visibility and reduce the prevalence of distracting touchscreens in cars.
According to the latest studies, fatalities increased year over year in most categories.
- Speeding-related, alcohol-impaired-driving, and seat belt non-use fatalities increased.
- Urban fatalities increased by 8.5 percent; rural fatalities increased by 2.3 percent.
- Older drivers 65 and older involved in fatal crashes decreased by 9.8 percent; drivers under 65 involved increased.
- There were fewer fatalities among people 9 and younger and people 65 and older from 2019 to 2020. Most fatality increases were people 10 to 64, with the 25-34 age group having the largest increase of 1,117 additional fatalities.
- Male fatalities increased by 8.6 percent, and female fatalities increased by 1.9 percent.
- Nighttime (6 p.m. to 5:59 a.m.) fatalities increased by 12 percent; daytime (6 a.m. to 5:59 p.m.) traffic fatalities increased by 1.4 percent.
- 42 states and the District of Columbia had increases in the number of fatalities.
The NHTSA has proposed new pedestrian crash avoidance tests, but they would be voluntary and not part of the agency’s 5-star rating system. Safety experts and advocates argue that this is not enough, and that pedestrian safety testing should be mandatory.
In addition to vehicle safety improvements, experts say that other measures are needed to reduce pedestrian and cyclist deaths, such as infrastructure changes, speed limit enforcement, and changes to driver behavior.
SAFETY TIPS FOR PEDESTRIANS
- Obey Traffic Signals and Signs: Always obey traffic signals, including pedestrian-specific signals like walk/don’t walk signs. Follow crosswalk and pedestrian signs to safely cross the road.
- Use Designated Crosswalks: Cross the road at designated crosswalks whenever possible. They are typically marked with white lines and may have additional signage.
- Make Eye Contact with Drivers: When crossing at an intersection, try to make eye contact with drivers to ensure they see you before stepping into the road.
- Look Both Ways: Before crossing any road, look left and right to check for oncoming traffic. Continue to check for traffic as you cross to ensure your safety.
- Avoid Distractions: Put away your phone and remove headphones when crossing the street to remain alert and aware of your surroundings.
- Walk Facing Traffic: If there are no sidewalks, walk on the side of the road facing oncoming traffic. This allows you to see approaching vehicles.
- Wear Reflective Clothing: If walking at night or in low-light conditions, wear reflective clothing or accessories to make yourself more visible to drivers.
- Be Cautious at Intersections: Exercise extra caution when crossing at intersections, as drivers may be turning or not expecting pedestrians.
- Wait for a Safe Gap in Traffic: If there is no crosswalk, wait for a safe gap in traffic before crossing the road. Don’t rush or try to cross in heavy traffic.
- Avoid Jaywalking: Jaywalking, or crossing the road in undesignated areas, can be dangerous. Always use crosswalks or designated pedestrian crossings.
- Respect School Zones: Be especially cautious in school zones and near schools, where children may be present.
- Follow Local Laws: Familiarize yourself with local pedestrian laws and regulations, as they may vary from place to place.
- Be Mindful of Vehicles in Parking Lots: Be cautious when walking through parking lots, as drivers may not always be looking for pedestrians.
- Teach Children Safe Practices: Educate children on safe pedestrian practices, including looking both ways and holding hands when crossing roads.
- Report Unsafe Conditions: If you encounter hazardous road conditions, missing crosswalks, or malfunctioning signals, report them to local authorities for repair or improvement.
SAFETY TIPS FOR DRIVERS
- Obey Speed Limits: Follow posted speed limits, especially in areas with high pedestrian activity, school zones, and residential neighborhoods. Reducing speed can significantly reduce the severity of accidents involving pedestrians.
- Stop for Pedestrian Crossings: Always yield the right-of-way to pedestrians at crosswalks and intersections, whether marked or unmarked. Stop well before the crosswalk to allow pedestrians to cross safely.
- Be Cautious at Intersections: Exercise extra caution when turning at intersections, as pedestrians may be crossing the street. Yield to pedestrians in crosswalks before making a turn.
- Stop for School Buses: If a school bus is stopped and its stop sign is extended, come to a complete stop. It’s illegal and dangerous to pass a stopped school bus when children are getting on or off.
- Avoid Distractions: Stay focused on the road. Avoid using mobile phones, adjusting the radio, or engaging in other distractions while driving.
- Respect Pedestrian Signals: Obey pedestrian signals and traffic lights. Do not proceed through an intersection or crosswalk when the “Don’t Walk” signal is displayed.
- Look for Hidden Pedestrians: Be aware of pedestrians, especially small children, who may not be easily visible over the hood of your vehicle or between larger vehicles.
- Drive Defensively: Be prepared for unexpected actions by pedestrians, especially in busy urban areas where they may dart into the street or not obey signals.
- Stop Behind Crosswalks: When stopping at a red light or stop sign, ensure that your vehicle is behind the marked crosswalk, giving pedestrians a clear path to cross.
- Reduce Speed in Poor Weather Conditions: Slow down and increase your following distance in adverse weather conditions like rain, snow, or fog, as visibility and road conditions may be compromised.
- Use Caution in Parking Lots: Be especially vigilant in parking lots, as pedestrians can be unpredictable, and children may be present.
- Check Blind Spots: Always check your blind spots before making turns or changing lanes to ensure that no pedestrians are in your path.
- Avoid Blocking Crosswalks: When stopped at a traffic light or in traffic, make sure not to block crosswalks. This allows pedestrians to cross safely.
- Do Not Drink and Drive: Never drink and drive, as impaired judgment and slowed reaction times increase the risk of accidents involving pedestrians.
- Respect Bicyclists and Scooter Riders: Remember that bicyclists and scooter riders are also vulnerable road users. Keep a safe distance when passing them and yield the right-of-way when necessary.
- Report Dangerous Road Conditions: If you encounter hazardous road conditions or missing pedestrian infrastructure, report them to local authorities to have them corrected.
If you or someone you know is injured in an accident at the fault of someone else, or injured on the job no matter whose fault it is, contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Clark by calling (661) 323-4000, or fill out a free consultation form, text, or chat with us at chainlaw.com.