Pedestrians as ‘vulnerable road users’, part 1: fatality trends

Tuesday April 8, 2014

In Connecticut and across the nation, motor vehicles dominate the transportation system.

To be sure, public transit is more developed in the Northeast than in the rest of the country. But even here, the prevailing car-is-king mindset has produced a system that puts pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists at risk of serious or even fatal collisions with cars and trucks.

A week ago, in our April 1 post on motorcycle accidents, we discussed one aspect of this topic. In today’s post, we will consider the issue of pedestrian fatalities

We will take note, in particular, of a new federal report showing that pedestrian fatalities have been going back up after dipping during the Great Recession.

Overall, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), the national number of fatal pedestrian accidents dropped from nearly 4,900 in 2005 to somewhat more than 4,100 in 2009, the year the recession ended.

More recently, however, the number has been going back up again. In 2012, the most recent year for which full data is available, there were 4,742 pedestrian fatalities in the U.S.

In the first six months of 2013, the number of pedestrian lives lost was 1,985.

GHSA researchers include pedestrians in a broader category of “vulnerable road users.” This category also includes motorcyclists and bicyclists. These users of the road are vulnerable to cars and trucks for two main reasons.

One reason is that, unlike drivers of cars and trucks, vulnerable road users are not encased within, and partly protected by, a vehicle.

Another reason is that there is such an extreme size differential between cars and trucks, on the one hand, and vulnerable road users on the other.

In part two of this post, we will discuss some of the steps being taken in some parts of the country to do a better job of preventing pedestrian accidents.

Source: Governors Highway Traffic Safety Association, “Pedestrian Traffic Fatalities by State: 2013 Preliminary Data,” Accessed April 8, 2014

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