Distracted walkers probably not to blame for pedestrian deaths

A new study says that distracted walking is likely not responsible for a recent surge in pedestrian deaths.

The number of pedestrians and cyclists killed on the road has skyrocketed in recent years. As NPR reports, fatal pedestrian accidents are near a 25-year high with close to 6,000 pedestrians killed across the United States in 2017. Many theories have been put forward to explain the dramatic increase, including an increase in biking and walking, lower gas prices (which leads to more traffic), and, of course, distracted driving. Many analysts have also tried to blame pedestrians themselves for the increase by citing distracted walking as a cause. However, recent research suggests that distracted walking as a major reason for pedestrian accidents is more myth than reality.

Pedestrian deaths rising

Statistics from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) show that between 2007 and 2016 nationwide pedestrian fatalities increased by 27 percent. While those deaths remained flat last year, they still stayed near a decades-long high. Pedestrian deaths are also accounting for a greater share of overall traffic deaths.

Just five states - California, Florida, New York, Texas, and Arizona - account for 43 percent of all pedestrian deaths despite the fact that those five states are home to just 30 percent of the U.S. population.

Are pedestrians to blame?

It is difficult to say why more pedestrians are dying in traffic accidents. There are probably a number of reasons, including more people biking and walking, an increase in vehicular traffic, and more SUVs on the road (which are more likely to cause death or serious injuries to pedestrians than smaller vehicles).

A number of analysts and public officials have, however, tried to blame pedestrians themselves by pointing to the problem of some pedestrians being distracted by their smartphones. As CNN reports, Honolulu went so far as to make it illegal for pedestrians to look at their cellphones while crossing streets.

However, as Curbed reports, the notion that distracted walking is responsible for the increase in pedestrian deaths is largely a myth. A recent study of pedestrians in New York City and Flagstaff found that 86.5 percent of pedestrians did not exhibit any distracted behavior while crossing the street. Furthermore, just 16 percent of pedestrians crossed outside of the crosswalk. In comparison, about 31 percent of drivers in the U.S. say they have texted and drove at least once in the past 30 days (although the true figure is likely much higher since that study was self-reported). For obvious reason, the many distracted drivers on the road are far more dangerous than the relatively few distracted pedestrians are.

Personal injury law

Unfortunately, it is all too common when a pedestrian is struck by a car for the driver and even law enforcement to try to blame the pedestrian for the accident. Yet most such accidents are caused by drivers and the injuries that pedestrians face can be severe. Anybody who has been hurt in a crash should contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. An attorney can help clients pursue whatever compensation they may be entitled to either in or out of court.