A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Keven Moore: Pedestrian fatalities are increasing; look up from your phones to see these safety tips

For the last the nine years I have had an adult kid attending either at the University of Kentucky or Eastern Kentucky University. Often times I will find myself on campus attending some event, dropping something off or seeing to some other declared emergency for one of my kids.

Each time I am driving around campus I am amazed to see how many of these students are walking across intersections or walkways with their head down and glued to their phones or listening to their music from their phones afflicted with a severe case of inattentive blindness.

Most are oblivious to their surroundings and automatically assume that every driver sees them and will come to a stop when they enter into the street. Yes, the laws say that they have the right of way, I get that, but what if I don’t see you? What if I’m distracted too? What if it’s after nightfall and they are wearing all dark colors and are invisible to me?

Back in my day, we were all taught to look both ways twice and then a third time on days that end with “Day.”

At some point, we all are pedestrians and are at risk of a pedestrian accident. The odds of you surviving a pedestrian accident with a vehicle are stacked against you because the average weight of a car is 3,221 lbs. and it is at least traveling 25 MPH.

A new report from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), projected that 6,227 pedestrian fatalities occurred in 2018, the highest number in nearly three decades. Pedestrians will account for 16 percent of all traffic deaths in 2018, compared to 12 percent in 2008.

In recent years, the number of pedestrian fatalities in the United States has grown sharply. During the 10-year period from 2008 to 2017, the number of pedestrian fatalities increased by 35 percent (from 4,414 deaths in 2008 to 5,977 deaths in 2017); meanwhile, the combined number of all other traffic deaths declined by six percent. Along with the increase in the number of pedestrian fatalities, pedestrian deaths as a percentage of total motor vehicle crash deaths increased from 12 percent in 2008 to 16 percent in 2017.

Now I’m not a world-renowned research scientist, but I did once help my daughter Chelsea place in the county science fair project. With my limited skills, I still think it’s pretty easy to connect the dots when you realize that the iPhone & Android smartphones went into mass production at the very same time we started to see pedestrian fatalities increase, after decades of decline.

My hypothesis may have yet to be scientifically unproven, but I would be willing to bet the farm that this is somehow related to the recent spike in pedestrian accidents.

I suspect that these numbers would be much higher if it wasn’t for the recent advancements in motor vehicle safety; for example the recent invention of The Pre-Collision System that will alert the driver and apply the brakes.

An increase in walking appears to have also increased exposure as well. One survey cited in the report estimated that the number of Americans walking to work has increased by about four percent between 2007 and 2016.

Most pedestrian fatalities take place on local roads, at night and away from intersections. Nighttime crashes account for more than 90 percent of the total increase in pedestrian deaths. More fatalities occurred in the dark (75%) than in daylight (22%), dusk (2%), and dawn (1%).

We all hear about the dangers of distracted driving and the use of cellphones, but “Distracted Walking” is a relatively new exposure.

Each year, more and more people are injured as a result of texting, talking or listening to music while on their cell phones and the internet is full of people falling into fountains, sewers holes, walls, and other stationary objects. As humorous as many of these videos may appear distracting walking is a very real hazard.

Here are some safety tips to keep you as a pedestrian safe:

• Look left, right and left again before crossing the street; looking left a second time is necessary because a car can cover a lot of distance in a short amount of time
• Make eye contact with drivers of oncoming vehicles to make sure they see you, even then be careful.
• Be aware of drivers even when you’re in a crosswalk; vehicles have blind spots
• Don’t wear headphones while walking, often times you can hear a hazard before seeing it.
• Never use a cell phone or other electronic device while walking near any street or roadway.
• If your view is blocked, move to a place where you can see oncoming traffic and they can see you.
• Never assume that a vehicle will stop, take responsibility for your own safety.
• Children younger than 10 should cross the street with an adult
• Only cross at designated crosswalks
• Wear bright and/or reflective clothing
• Walk in groups

Be Safe My Friends

Keven Moore works in risk management services. He has a bachelor’s degree from University of Kentucky, a master’s from Eastern Kentucky University and 25-plus years of experience in the safety and insurance profession. He is also an expert witness. He lives in Lexington with his family and works out of both Lexington and Northern Kentucky. Keven can be reached at kmoore@roeding.com.

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