Pedestrian deaths show first drop since pandemic, report reveals | The Optimist Daily
Today’s Solutions: July 19, 2024

THE OPTIMIST DAILY EDITORIAL TEAM

After reaching a 40-year peak in 2022, pedestrian fatalities in the United States have finally fallen. According to a survey released Wednesday by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), the incidence of pedestrian fatalities will decrease by 5.4 percent in 2023. This is the first decline since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, a big but cautious step forward for road safety.

A promising trend amidst persistent challenges

While the reduction to 7,318 fatalities in 2023 is an improvement, the figures remain greater than those recorded in 2019, before the epidemic. GHSA CEO Jonathan Adkins recognizes the progress made but emphasizes that much more work is needed. “We’re happy to see it going down, but we’re not having a party,” Adkins remarked.

The decrease in pedestrian deaths is part of a larger trend toward improved traffic safety. According to the National Highway Road Safety Administration (NHTSA), overall traffic fatalities are also expected to fall in 2024, indicating that new safety programs are beginning to take effect.

A multi-pronged approach to pedestrian safety

Road safety advocates have long advocated for a variety of measures to improve pedestrian safety, including reduced speed limits, more walkways, and better illumination in pedestrian areas. Adkins emphasizes that a multifaceted approach is required to prevent deaths. “There’s a lot of construction going on across the country that’s making the roadway safer. We’re engaging law enforcement in some new and creative ways,” he said. “We’re looking at vehicle technology. So we’re doing a lot of different things, and that’s a different approach to safety in the United States.”

Adkins emphasized California’s efforts, citing the state’s effectiveness in collaborating with local governments to adopt safety measures. “That’s different than, certainly, historically in roadway safety,” he said. California experienced the highest drop in pedestrian deaths, demonstrating that joint efforts can have big effects.

Nighttime risks and large vehicles

Despite the overall decline, several risk factors remain widespread. According to NHTSA data, the majority of pedestrian deaths in 2023 happened at night and in regions without sidewalks. These fatalities were most likely caused by SUVs or other large vehicles, which are more dangerous to pedestrians because of their size and weight.

Addressing these specific dangers is crucial for further lowering pedestrian fatalities. Improved street illumination, enhanced visibility, and pedestrian-friendly urban layout can all help to reduce these risks. Promoting the adoption of modern car safety technologies, such as automatic emergency braking and pedestrian recognition systems, can also improve safety for pedestrians.

Looking both ways… and forward

The GHSA report’s results provide some hope for pedestrian safety in the United States. Adkins is optimistic that the downward trend will continue as more safety procedures are introduced. “It’s really just started in the last few years. And so I’m hopeful that that’s starting to pay off,” he said.

With a continuous focus on creative and collaborative safety measures, pedestrian deaths could be drastically reduced in the future years. The objective is to keep the momentum going and expand effective ideas across the country, ensuring that streets are safer for everyone.

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