Californians enjoy prime access to outdoorsy lifestyles. From surfing to biking to desert treks and mountain hikes, people spend more time outdoors than most other states. In fact, as Americans become more focused on a healthy lifestyle, pedestrians are up and about in higher numbers all across the U.S. Unfortunately, this has correlated with the highest rates of pedestrian deaths in three decades.
According to CNN, experts projected that 2018 was the deadliest year for American pedestrians since the 1990s. While traffic deaths overall are on the decline, pedestrian deaths have consistently trended upward since 2009 by about 35%. California sits on the high end of this trend. In the first six months of 2018, California reported 432 pedestrian deaths compared to just one in New Hampshire.
Researchers confirmed that the increase of pedestrians taking to the streets has led to the upward trend. However, in most instances, the real culprit is impaired drivers. People who drive distracted, drunk and drowsy increase the likelihood of striking pedestrians and other vehicles. CNN also notes a rise in SUVs on the streets, which can do more harm to a human body than a car, though both can be deadly.
Nighttime crashes are particularly dangerous and account for 90% of traffic accidents that led to pedestrian deaths. More than half of these deaths involved alcohol impairment in the driver or the pedestrian. It is also reasonable to infer that drowsy drivers are more likely to be on the road after hours than during the daytime.
CNBC reports that new digital safety systems could reduce the number of pedestrian deaths. These systems automatically detect pedestrians even when drivers do not and will apply the brakes. Researchers tested this system on 11 SUVs and found that most performed well. They chose SUVs because utility vehicles now represent two out of every three cars Americans buy.
Technology may do wonders to help prevent the further increase of pedestrian deaths. It may also create a downward trend for these fatalities. However, drivers too will need to focus more intently on the road and avoid unsafe driving behaviors that put themselves and other road users at risk.