It is estimated that more than 4,500 pedestrians are killed in vehicular
accidents each year throughout the United States. The New York City Department
of Transportation published statistics concluding that 70 percent of pedestrian
deaths are caused by dangerous driver choices. Thus, a car accident involving
a pedestrian fatality is generally caused by some form of driver recklessness.
In addition to cutting down on reckless drivers, the incidence of car accidents
involving pedestrians would decrease precipitously if the speed of cars
on city streets was reduced. Thus, two studies found that over 80 percent
of pedestrian deaths in motor vehicle accidents is caused by drivers traveling
about 40 mph. The percentage goes down to 5 percent when the vehicle is
going 20 mph.
The studies opened the way for new traffic evaluations and an examination
of the meaning of "speed" on the roadways. One of the important
questions coming from these figures is whether the public may be willing
to go along with moderate speed limit reductions to save pedestrian lives.
It may be conversely stated as whether the public is willing to sacrifice
a few thousand lives each year in return for the privilege of going 40
instead of 20 on city roads.
There are other safety measures that could reduce pedestrian traffic fatalities
and serious injuries. One is to make crosswalks more visible – a
splash of some bright white paint could save the life of someone close
to you. Another measure is to extend the curb into the intersection and
thus reduce the size of the crosswalk.
In New York, a great many innovations could be implemented to improve safety
protections for pedestrians. First and foremost, however, could be the
need to ramp up education to accentuate a culture that respects the rights
of pedestrians to be protected from the dangers of a car accident. When
people are aware of the consequences of making poor choices, there may
be a significant number of them who choose to act with more respect and
awareness for traffic safety.
Source: Utne Reader, "How to Prevent Pedestrian Fatalities", Jay Walljasper,
Oct. 2, 2014