Maryland Pedestrian Accident Deaths on the Rise. Is Distracted Walking to Blame?

Heads-up Maryland foot travelers: Fatal pedestrian accidents are the highest they’ve been in years, giving traffic and public safety advocates cause for concern. You should be too.

The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) projected that in 2018, pedestrian traffic accident deaths would hit levels not seen since 1990, with 6,227 deaths reported nationwide. This figure is 4 percent higher than in 2017. Maryland’s pedestrian accident deaths increased by 25 percent from January – June 2017 (48 deaths) compared to preliminary-adjusted numbers for January – June 2018 (60 deaths).

But are dangerous pedestrian behaviors, such as walking and texting, to blame? The findings are complicated, as smartphone use is only one possible factor.

The GHSA reports that a number of factors may be contributing to the rise in pedestrian traffic accident fatalities. These include…

  • increased pedestrian exposure (to risks)
  • unfriendly infrastructure
  • unsafe driving behaviors
  • increased presence of sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and light trucks (which cause more severe pedestrian impact than cars)
  • the large growth in smartphone use

In other words, it’s complicated. However common sense dictates that looking down at a cellphone while walking — whether reading the news, checking the weather, responding to email, or texting — increases the risk of bumping into something, or worse. Someone concentrating on the tiny screen in their hand is less apt to notice the traffic around them, for example, someone running a stop sign or swerving out of their lane.

According to the GHSA, the greatest number of fatal pedestrian accidents occur on local streets (35 percent), followed by state highways (25 percent), U.S. highways (16 percent), Interstates (10 percent), and rural roads (8 percent). The majority of pedestrian fatalities occur at non-intersection locations.

However, some states are finding solutions to decrease traffic dangers to pedestrians, such as infrastructure improvements, educational campaigns, and law enforcement approaches. The bottom line for Maryland is pedestrian accident deaths are up. Be careful out there, and keep your eyes on where you’re going.

Sources:

Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA):

Pedestrian Traffic Fatalities by State: 2018 Preliminary Data

Download the GHSA report (PDF)

Pedestrian Deaths Could Hit a 30-Year High
MarketWatch  March 2, 2019