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Distracted driving takes a toll on pedestrians

The world is more dangerous than ever for pedestrians. In 2016, the US saw the largest increase in pedestrian fatalities ever recorded. Pedestrian deaths have been tracked for four decades. In terms of raw numbers, more than 6,000 pedestrians died in vehicle-related accidents. While there are several possible explanations, many safety experts are pointing to the rise in smart phone use as the driving factor behind the increase.

Everyone is distracted

A distracted driver is obviously more likely to get into an accident than one who is focusing on safe driving. Not all accidents involving pedestrians are the sole responsibility of drivers, however. The majority of fatal pedestrian accidents happen during the nighttime in areas designated for vehicle traffic. Intersections are the home of roughly 20 percent of these deadly accidents. Pedestrians walking on the street, in the dark, focusing on their phones rather than their surroundings, are placing themselves in danger. People are simply less likely to be aware of what's going around them than they used to be. Cell phones are frequently the culprit. 

More than enough blame to go around

Cell phones are certainly not the only cause of pedestrian fatalities. Alcohol is responsible for many of these accidents, and is at least part of the reason why more pedestrian deaths occur at night. Speeding is another factor commonly raised in pedestrian accidents. Some experts point to road design as a contributor to pedestrian fatalities. All of these factors and more add up to a dangerous picture for people trying to get around on foot.

Technological changes, such as self-driving cars, are likely a long way from resolving this problem. Human drivers will remain in control long enough to kill tens of thousands of pedestrians before technology has the chance to intercede. The solution to this problem is the same as it is for countless others. Drivers need to be more cautious when operating a motor vehicle. Pedestrians have the right of way. Slow down. Pay attention. Defer to pedestrians in every situation. That way, you can avoid being a part of a tragic situation.

Source: CNN tech, "Smartphones may be to blame for unprecedented spike in pedestrian deaths," by Matt McFarland, 30 March 2017

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