According to a citylab article, the number of fatal pedestrian accidents is rising sharply—and self-driving technology is not likely to “fix” the issue. Last year, Elaine Herzberg, a resident of Tempe, Arizona, was walking her bicycle across the road when a Volvo driver—who was streaming an episode of The Voice on her cell phone—crashed into Herzberg, killing her. The twist in this story is that the Volvo was a part of Uber’s fleet of self-driving test vehicles, which was racking up miles in “computer control mode.”
In this mode, the car’s sensors should certainly have recognized the pedestrian in its path, avoiding the collision. The Volvo’s operating system did not avoid the pedestrian and the driver who was busy on her phone, failed to intervene. This was the first recorded case of a fatal pedestrian accident by a self-driving vehicle. No matter whether the vehicle is driving itself or operated by a real driver, pedestrians are being killed at a staggering rate.
Governors Highway Safety Association Releases Preliminary 2018 Pedestrian Fatality Data
Although the 2018 data has not been fully analyzed, it is expected that once that occurs, the Governors Highway Safety Association will conclude that 2018 had the highest number of pedestrian fatalities since 1990—6,277. Beginning in 1979, pedestrian fatalities showed a steady decline over the next three decades. That tides seems to have turned, with Richard Retting, the author and researcher of the report stating, “Something’s gone terribly wrong in the last ten years.” Despite the fact that cars have continued to get safer, pedestrian deaths are not reflecting this.
What is Causing the Increase in Fatal Pedestrian Accidents?
Some believe that the increase in pedestrian deaths is due simply to the increasing number of drivers on American roadways. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, on average, drivers spent 52 minutes driving about 31.5 miles per day in 2016 and 2017. Nationwide, during that same time, drivers made 183 billion trips, driving 2.6 trillion miles. Heavier SUVs and pickup trucks are becoming much more popular as well, meaning that when one of these heavier vehicles strikes a pedestrian, the accident is much more likely to end in death for the pedestrian.
Distracted Driving is Bad for Pedestrians
The steady increase in distracted driving has not only been bad for auto accidents between vehicles, but for pedestrians and bicyclists as well. Phones are a major distraction for drivers, despite the ever-increasing legislation across the United States which makes it a criminal offense for drivers to use their phone while driving. Although phones are certainly one of the primary driver distractions, there are others as well.
In 2016, the NHTSA estimated that 37,461 lives were lost on U.S. roads as a result of distracted driving, and it is believed that about 27 percent of those were from cell phone use alone. For teenage drivers, accidents caused by driver distraction is even higher, being responsible for about 58 percent of teen crashes. The University of Utah conducted a study which concluded that people are as impaired when they drive and talk on a cell phone as they are when they drive intoxicated (with a BAC of 0.08 percent). All of this translates into bad news for pedestrians.
Auto Manufacturers May Have to Address Pedestrian Deaths
Citylab further found that 75 percent of all pedestrian fatalities occurred at night, and 17 percent of pedestrian fatalities were related to driver impairment. While people continue to be safer inside a vehicle, those outside the vehicles are perhaps less safe than they have ever been. It is believed the increase in pedestrian deaths could also reflect our inability to enact any type of pedestrian safety measures in the same way car manufacturers have been required to increase vehicle safety. In the end, car manufacturers may end up being responsible for pedestrian fatalities as well, being required to install pedestrian automatic braking in more cars, particularly heavier SUVs and pickup trucks. At least 18 cities in the United States have adopted plans known as Vision Zero plans, which have a goal of eliminating all pedestrian deaths by 2040. It remains to be seen how successful these plans will be.
Helping Clients Who Have Suffered a Pedestrian Accident with Injuries
Clients who have been injured as the result of a pedestrian accident could find themselves with serious injuries and medical expenses they are unable to pay. Injuries for pedestrians hit by a vehicle are often catastrophic in nature. These clients may also be unable to work because of the their pedestrian accident injuries USClaims can help your clients pay both their medical expenses and their regular, day-to-day expenses related to a pedestrian accident in anticipation of a court judgment or settlement. Call 1-877-USCLAIMS today for the information and help you and your client need and deserve.