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What is behind the rise in pedestrian accidents?

Fatal car accidents are on the decline. In 2018, almost 36,600 people died in a car accident, but that rate is 2.4% lower than the rate in 2017. Advancements in technology, coupled with public awareness campaigns about intoxicated driving, speeding and other risky driver behavior, have all contributed to the reduction.

However, that is only part of the picture. The rate of fatal pedestrian accidents went up in 2018 by 3.4%, and that number was the highest it had been since 1990. Fatalities for cyclists jumped by 6.3%. If you’re wondering how to keep your family safe here in New York or elsewhere, experts have ways to explain why this increase occurred and how to prevent it from going higher.

Do safety features prevent deaths?

There are a whole host of new safety features on vehicles, but they don’t always help prevent fatalities. For instance, the American Automobile Association conducted tests on some of the new safety features in newer cars, to determine if people were using them to prevent accidents. What they found was that, even in daylight conditions, driving only 20mph, cars still hit dummy pedestrians on a closed course 60% of the time.

These vehicles had automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection alerts, but apparently, they weren’t enough to compel drivers to stop. Newer cars also have cameras, radar and other detection devices, but they don’t necessarily prevent collisions. Safety features seem more focused on keeping people inside vehicles safe, which is certainly important, but overlooks a big problem.

Breaking down the numbers

Looking deeper into the statistics, some patterns emerge that are informative. The NHTSA’s research found that female cyclists are at a particularly high risk of a fatal accident with a motor vehicle. The rate of women cyclists dying in a crash leaped by 29.2% in 2018, but the rate for male cyclists only rose by 3.2%. It is unclear whether that is due to more women riding bikes, but it is concerning nonetheless.

Though the rate of pedestrians killed in rural areas used to be higher than those killed in urban areas, in recent years, that trend has changed. Now, pedestrian fatalities in cities have gone up by 34% since 2009, while the number for rural areas dropped by 15%. This is partially due to the fact that more people are living in cities in recent years and that people are also driving more.

How vehicle type factors into fatality rates

One type of vehicle seems to be at the forefront of pedestrian deaths — sport utility vehicles, or SUVs. Pedestrian fatalities by SUV went up by 81% over the last 10 years. Experts say this is because SUVs are larger and strike people higher up on the body than a sedan. That means they’re more likely to hit someone in the head or torso, where vital organs are located, or the vehicle traps them underneath. SUVs also have more power than most sedans, and speed can increase the chance of fatal injury.

Though there are ways to solve all of these factors that many areas are working toward, pedestrian accidents will still happen. They often result in serious injury or even death. If a pedestrian collision has injured you or someone you care about, there are certain legal rights that can help hold those responsible accountable for their actions.