Smartphones Linked to Spike in Pedestrian Deaths

The most recent study by the Governors Highway Safety Association found a significant spike in the number of fatal pedestrian accidents across Pennsylvania. The study found that from January through June 2016, there were 77 pedestrian fatalities in Pennsylvania. For the same time period in 2015, there were 59 deaths. That is a dramatic increase of 30.5 percent from 2015 to 2016.

The study also determined that pedestrian deaths are climbing faster that motorist fatalities nationwide. There were nearly 6,000 pedestrian deaths in the US last year, the highest total in two decades.

Although the study partially attributed the increase to an improved economy, lower gas prices and more walking for exercise and environmental reasons, the study also focused on the increased usage of smartphones. Researchers think the biggest factor may be drivers and pedestrians being distracted by their cellphones and other electronic devices.

The study serves as a reminder that drivers and pedestrians must be alert and avoid distractions. Some pedestrian safety tips are listed below:

  • As a pedestrian, make eye contact with drivers to ensure the driver sees you, even when you have the right of way.
  • Look both ways, more than once, before you attempt to cross the street.
  • Always use a crosswalk.
  • Obey traffic signals, including ‘walk' and ‘don't walk' signs.
  • Look across all lanes before you cross a multi-lane road. One driver may see you, but that doesn't mean others have.
  • Always walk on the sidewalk when available. If there's no sidewalk, walk against traffic and in a single-file line.
  • Watch for obstacles that might prevent drivers from seeing you. Don't cross the street from behind parked cars, trees, or other large objects.
  • Prevent distracted walking. Do not use a cell phone, wear headphones, ear buds, or operate other electronic devices while walking. It can save your life.
  • Wear bright clothing and reflective materials, especially when walking at night. Wear shoes, a vest, or belt with reflective strips.
  • Avoid walking at night in areas that aren't well-lit.
  • At a bus stop, stay away from the curb as much as possible.

Drivers also need to be cautious when it comes to pedestrians. Some common tips for drivers regarding pedestrian safety are as follows:

  • Never drive distracted. Accidents happen in less than a second.
  • Always follow all traffic laws.
  • Always yield to pedestrians when they have the right of way. Pennsylvania state law requires you to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks.
  • Yield to pedestrians who are crossing the street and have a green light.
  • Keep alert when driving at dawn, dusk, and at night.
  • Always drive the lowered speed limit in a School Zone.
  • Always stop for school buses that are loading or unloading students – it's the law.
  • Look for pedestrians walking between parked cars or behind large objects, such as an overgrown tree.
  • As a courtesy, motion for pedestrians to go when they make eye contact with you. It eliminates confusion.

Sources: Governors Highway Safety Association, The Morning Call

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