The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) in the US recently released a report (in May) that showed “soaring” rates of pedestrians being killed in road accidents. The report used data from 2009 to 2016 to show that deaths had increased by 46% in that time period.
The report stated that the increase was due to busier city and suburban roads and also because there were more pedestrians in the darker periods of the day. Other reasons given were that people were driving more, there were higher speed limits and more SUVs. They also went to say that more traffic light maintenance was a factor!
The report also speculated that more people might be walking to keep fit and that in the US, there hasn’t been an increase in walkways when new roads have been built or improved. The report did suggest that there had been an increase in fatalities due to people trying to run across multi-lane roads because the safety crossing was too far away!
The gist of the report – and the recommendations that came from it put the blame squarely on two of the many components of an accident: the vehicle and the road. The report highlighted that single vehicle accidents were involving more SUVs and although the report acknowledged that this market segment was growing, it concentrated on wanting better vehicle frontal design. What is interesting is that the US has had a long love affair with large SUVs and pickup trucks, so realistically it is the increase in small SUV sales that they noted. However, I wonder how much that has affected the rise in accidents – many new small SUVs are smaller than the sedans that they replaced.
With regards to the roadways, the report claimed that speed limits were “creeping up” and that many roads do not have proper walkways alongside them. Have speed limits really been creeping up? In some rural areas they have gone up to 70 mph or higher, yet the States that have done it have not reported a major change in fatal accident rates. City speed limits have risen in some States like California, however not by a huge amount. In fact the jury is well and truly out on this subject. The report also highlighted that lighting was not acceptable on many roads with the report stating that “The bottom line is that roads are becoming more dangerous for pedestrians and drivers.”
Humans are responsible for accidents. Roads do not cause them, nor do the vehicles – it is the humans who control the vehicle and who are walking on the road that are the main reasons why vehicles crash. Nowhere in the report was there any discussion about driver or pedestrian training which is odd because the report came from an insurance institute and you would think that if they helped teach humans how to use roads, then the risk and payouts would be lowered resulting in higher profits – or god forbid – lower premiums!
In Sydney, we have the Pedestrian Council of Australia, founded by a driver who was distracted and hit a jaywalker. He has spent 20-odd years fighting to improve cars and city streets – not teaching drivers to focus or pedestrians to look before they cross the road.
So what has gone wrong? This video was from the mid 1970s teaching British children how to cross a road and yet today people are so absorbed in their own world that basic self preservation seems to have been lost. Part of the issue is also the fact that so many people are focused on a device, either looking at it or listening to audio, that they forget where they are. The same applies to drivers – I watch a lot of car reviews and the majority of them spend more time on the entertainment tech than the vehicle’s dynamics and performance.
I’ve always said that before anyone gets a drivers licence, they should get a motorcycle licence and use it for a while before being allowed to upgrade to a car licence. The benefit of that is that the driver will have learnt better risk management and importantly, better vision skills. On a motorcycle you have more to lose, so when riding it is critical to keep scanning the environment and this I believe would help drivers see pedestrians and react quicker, potentially avoiding the impact
It frustrates me that when a pedestrian is hurt, it is always deemed to be the drivers fault. It’s like being bitten by a shark – if you swim in their domain you are risking a bite, the same applies when a pedestrian walks in the road. We have to get back to the concept of personal responsibility for our actions and stop blaming others for mistakes that shouldn’t have been made.
To finish off, the IIHS report uses data that is already two years out of date to try and show that roads and vehicles are the culprits. I’d actually be happy to see more of my tax dollars going towards teaching humans to not drive like they are in The Italian Job, however pedestrians should definitely sign up for the self-preservation society!
Getta Bloomin’ Move On!