Pedestrian Deaths Spike in U.S. as Reckless Driving Surges

Pedestrian Deaths Spike in U.S. as Reckless Driving Surges

Fatalities are climbing to record levels two years into the pandemic. Authorities cite drivers’ anxiety levels, larger vehicles and fraying social norms.

Because the Pike District/White Flint area is striving to be as walkable as possible, I though this article would be of interest.

From the NY Times

Going into the pandemic, some traffic specialists were optimistic that pedestrian deaths would decline. After all, millions of motorists were slashing their driving time and hewing to social distancing measures.

The opposite happened.

Empty roads allowed some to drive much faster than before. Some police chiefs eased enforcement, wary of face-to-face contact. For reasons that psychologists and transit safety experts are just beginning to explain, drivers also seemed to get angrier.

Dr. David Spiegel, director of Stanford Medical School’s Center on Stress and Health, said many drivers were grappling with what he calls “salience saturation.”

“We’re so saturated with fears about the virus and what it’s going to do,” Dr. Spiegel said. “People feel that they get a pass on other threats.”

Dr. Spiegel said another factor was “social disengagement,” which deprives people of social contact, a major source of pleasure, support and comfort. Combine that loss with overloading our capacity to gauge risks, Dr. Spiegel said, and people are not paying as much attention to driving safely.

“If they do, they don’t care about it that much,” Dr. Spiegel said. “There’s the feeling that the rules are suspended and all bets are off.”

Crashes killed more than 6,700 pedestrians in 2020, up about 5 percent from the estimated 6,412 the year before, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.

Based on another commonly used road safety metric — vehicle miles traveled — the group projected that the pedestrian fatality rate spiked about 21 percent in 2020 as deaths climbed sharply even though people drove much less that year, the largest ever year-over-year increase. And preliminary data from 2021 indicates yet another increase in the number of pedestrian deaths.

While other developed countries have made strides in reducing pedestrian deaths over the last several years, the pandemic has intensified several trends that have pushed the United States in the other direction. Crashes killing pedestrians climbed 46 percent over the last decade, compared with a 5 percent increase for all other crashes, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.

Read the rest of the article at https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/14/us/pedestrian-deaths-pandemic.html

Amy Ginsburg

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One comment

Carol Goldman

As a driver, I notice at night that many cross walks especially the ones not at a traffic light are not well lit. As a pedestrian, when crossing, I’m waving and looking to protect myself. I notice many pedestrians arrogantly just walk and assume the driver can see them and can stop. I suppose that doesn’t always end well.

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