It’s become an all-too-common sight in Baltimore and communities across Maryland: People walking down the sidewalks and crossing the street with their heads down, looking at their cell phones. Researchers suggest that “distracted walking” — combined with the deadly trend of distracted driving — has contributed to an increase in pedestrian traffic accident injuries and fatalities across the country. Some statistics to make us all look up and take notice:
- The Governors Highway Safety Association reports that nationally, pedestrian accident death rates are rising faster than motor vehicle crash fatality rates.
- CBS News reports that last year, some 6,000 pedestrians died in U.S. traffic accidents.
- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that pedestrian accident fatalities increased by 9.5 percent in 2015 — the highest numbers seen since 1996.
- NHTSA reports that in 2014, of the 442 total traffic accident fatalities in Maryland, 101 were pedestrian accident deaths.
Maryland has made some positive strides in recent years to curb pedestrian injuries and deaths due to traffic accidents. In fact, preliminary data show that pedestrian fatalities in Maryland and Washington, DC, had decreased for the first six months of 2016. However, far too many people in Maryland are still sustaining serious injuries and losing their lives in pedestrian traffic accidents, which represent roughly one-fifth of our state’s motor vehicle accident fatalities. The 2015 Maryland Highway Safety Office Annual Report states that, “Over the past five years, an average of 106 pedestrians have lost their lives and 2,477 were injured each year as a result of a crash. This loss of life represents 20 percent of all of Maryland’s traffic fatalities.”