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Motorists are killing pedestrians at the highest speeds for nearly 30 years



Nearly 36,600 people died on US roads last year, down 2.4 percent from 2017, as recently announced by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The mortality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled also decreased by 3.4 percent from 1.17 in 2017 to 1.13 in 2018. The NHTSA states that this is the lowest mortality rate since 2014.

That sounds good, but it's really only good news for those of us who drive or drive in cars. All others, especially vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists, are killed at an alarming rate. The number of pedestrians killed was 6,283, 3.4 percent higher than last year.


The cyclists were even worse: in 2018 857 people were killed, an increase of 6.3 percent. Cyclists are at particular risk: the number of women killed in cycling increased by 29.2 percent in 2018, compared to just 3.2 percent in men.

"It is good news that drivers and inmates have declined, but the increase in cyclists and pedestrians shows a new trend has begun to kill increasingly vulnerable road users," said Angie Schmitt, former national Reporter for StreetsBlog, who writes a book about the pedestrian safety crisis. "And it will not go away."

The number of deaths among pedestrians and cyclists and the decline in total road deaths is coming at a time when automakers are introducing more safety technologies, such as: B. automatic emergency braking, lane departure assistance and pedestrian detection. New cars are now fitted as standard with cameras, radars and other sensors that detect impending collisions or help drivers avoid danger. In some cases, the car is braked to avoid an accident if the driver does not respond in time.

New security technology does not automatically mean fewer crashes. While automakers better protect the people who buy their cars, they still do not do enough to minimize the carnage caused by their customers. The American Automobile Association (AAA) recently conducted a series of tests on automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection vehicles on a closed circuit with mock pedestrians. The vehicles hit the sham pedestrians, who crossed the road 60 percent of the time – in daylight at a speed of 32 km / h.


New car technology can be hit or missed during the day, but at night it's almost always hit – and it's pedestrians in particular who are victims. According to NHTSA data, 76 percent of pedestrians killed in 2018 were hit 76 percent after dark. The AAA test of high-tech detection systems showed that they are almost ineffective at night.

The NHTSA said it is investigating ways to reduce the mortality rate of pedestrians and cyclists, possibly through changes to their vehicle crash test program. Nevertheless, the agency wanted to highlight the fact that "many" of pedestrians killed by drivers had alcohol in their system, which outraged some security attorneys. "To the extent that they accuse victims, I think it is harmful," said Schmitt.

Ken Kolosh, Head of Statistical Reporting and National Security Council Statistical Estimation Systems, said these statistics highlight inadequacies in our infrastructure Pedestrians are not adequately protected from fast-moving vehicles.

"Many of these people tried to do the right thing by not getting behind the wheel and may have inadvertently put themselves in a dangerous situation," Kolosh said. "As a society, we need to think about how people are forced to walk in unsafe environments where vehicles and other vulnerable road users are not adequately separated or housed." killed in cities. But that changed in 2016 as more people moved to the cities and the number of vehicle miles driven increased. The number of deaths in the city has increased by 34 percent since 2009. According to NHTSA, deaths in rural areas fell by 15 percent.

Cities were slow to respond with the necessary improvements to separate cars from pedestrians and cyclists, and the federal government was largely absent, focusing more on withdrawing vehicle emission standards than helping cities curb road deaths. A bipartisan coalition in Congress has just put forward a bill to provide cities with federal funds for Vision Zero projects to reduce the number of fatalities to zero. But it is unclear what, in view of the polarized environment, can actually be passed by the President and legally confirmed.

"We need a much stronger federal commitment to the kind of amenities that ensure the safety of cyclists and pedestrians: things like sidewalks, [Americans with Disabilities Act] ramps, pedestrian crossings and bike lanes," Schmitt said. "And we need federal regulations that will finally determine how the vehicle design affects the safety of pedestrians." It's not surprising that SUVs continue to wreak havoc on the streets. While people driving SUVs are slightly safer (according to the NHTSA, 1.6 percent fewer SUV inmates in 2018), the number of pedestrians killed by these drivers has dropped by 81 in the past decade, according to a report released last year Percent increased by the Insurance Institute for Road Safety.

This is mainly due to the way SUVs are designed: larger bodies and taller carriages make pedestrians more likely to suffer fatal blows to the head and torso. Higher distances mean that victims are more likely to be caught under a fast moving SUV instead of being pushed onto the hood or sideways.

Speed ​​is also a factor because SUVs have more horsepower than a typical sedan. A recent survey by USA Today and Detroit Free Press revealed that the growing popularity of SUVs is responsible for the alarming increase in pedestrian deaths.

However, with the love of Americans for their huge off-road vehicles and trucks, it is doubtful that reports of an increase in pedestrian deaths will satisfy the desire for larger types of vehicles. Although the distraction of drivers is responsible for fewer deaths in 2018, it is still a problem. According to the NHTSA, the number of deaths from distraction-related accidents in 2018 was 2,841 or 7.8 percent of total deaths. This represents a decline of 12.4 percent from 3,242 in 2017.

"We should continue to worry about the distraction," Kolosh said. "It's not just cell phones, it's all technologies, we're pretty much used to people seeing text at red lights."

Smartphone manufacturers have introduced a number of new features to minimize driver use, but there is no magic formula. "Technology has brought us to this problem, and technology can help us solve that problem," Kolosh said, "but it will depend on the individual."


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