Pedestrian deaths reach a 30-year high

Pedestrian deaths are increasing across the U.S., and the problem is particularly bad in Georgia. According to NPR, a Governors Highway Safety Association report found 6,227 pedestrians died in vehicle accidents in 2018. This was the highest number in the U.S. in almost 30 years.

Georgians represent a significant number of the deaths

The issue particularly affects Georgia. It is one of five states that make up nearly half of the country’s pedestrians fatalities. Macon, Georgia has just 110,000 residents, but one in every 8,000 of those residents died in a pedestrian accident in 2018.

Official believes roads are not designed for pedestrians

Experts believe the rise in pedestrian fatalities is caused by several factors. Tom Ellington, chair of Macon’s Pedestrian Safety Review Board, said jaywalkers are not to blame for the problem. He believes the state’s transportation system is part of the problem. Ellington states roadways are designed for cars and not for people.

Cities lack crosswalks

In Macon, there are many people who take public transportation or walk where they are going. These pedestrians are then vulnerable to injury because roads are designed for fast-moving traffic instead of walking. Ellington states there are places where there is up to a two-mile gap between crosswalks.

Research has shown most people will not walk farther than 300 feet to a crosswalk.

More SUVs may be part of the issue

Richard Rettig wrote the Governors Highway Safety Association report. Rettig believes it is more than a lack of sidewalks and crosswalks that is causing the spike. Over the last 10 years, the death rate has jumped 30 percent. Rettig points out that since 2013, more consumers are buying light trucks than are buying cars. When SUVs hit pedestrians, they are more likely to die because the vehicles are bigger and heavier.

Smartphone use also contributes to the problem

Rettig also believes smartphone use is part of the problem. Both pedestrians and drivers use cellphones 4,000 percent more than they did in 2008. Rettig thinks if more automakers added autonomous pedestrian sensor technology to vehicles, this would help with the problem.

Hands-free phone law may help

In July, a hands-free phone law when into effect in Georgia. The law prohibits Georgia drivers from holding a phone while driving. Since the ban went into effect, there have been over 19,000 convictions for using a phone while driving in the state, which is more than double the number from 2017. Some law enforcement officials are also seeing a decrease in vehicle accidents since the hands-free law went into effect.

As police officers continue to ticket drivers, perhaps Georgia will see a decrease in pedestrian fatalities. Or perhaps the numbers will only truly decline once the state addresses infrastructure issues, and more automakers invest in pedestrian sensing technology.

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