Pedestrian safety is a growing problem across the country, with implications for auto liability panel counsel members. About 15 percent of all traffic fatalities in 2017 involved pedestrians, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA). This is the highest number of pedestrian deaths in the last 25 years.
Pedestrian deaths increased 27 percent from 2007 to 2016, estimates the GHSA. The overall rise in vehicle-caused deaths has been linked with increased driver distractions. Americans are also driving more due to a strong economy and low gasoline prices, and an increased number of people are walking.
Other problems that plague the safety of drivers and pedestrians include alcohol impaired driving and drugged driving. Traffic accidents in which fatally injured drivers tested positive for drugs increased from 28 percent in 2005 to 43 percent in 2015, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Auto liability panel counsel members are likely to be noticing this in their work with auto insurance carriers.
The time of day and the place where a pedestrian is walking appear to be factors in pedestrian deaths, according to research conducted by Russ Martin, director of government relations for the GHSA. In 2016, for example, 75 percent of pedestrian fatalities occurred after dark and more than 70 percent occurred in travel lanes away from intersections.
In a response to the increase in pedestrian deaths and the research being conducted on some of the factors that might cause pedestrian deaths, pilot programs have been created in several states to learn how factors such as stoplights, speed limits, and car designs contribute to accidents involving pedestrians. The goal of these programs is to reduce the number of pedestrians being struck by vehicles, and also to design driverless vehicles in a way that minimize the risks of pedestrian fatalities.
Auto manufacturers and driverless technology companies like Uber, General Motors Co., and Alphabet Inc., are also developing driverless vehicles to gradually begin replacing human operated automobiles. These companies claim that computer-operated vehicles will make better driving decisions on the road than human-operated vehicles.
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