Pedestrians have no physical protection against a moving vehicle. Preliminary figures for 2019 from the Governors Highway Safety Association contain bad news that illustrate this danger. Pedestrian deaths in motor vehicle accidents rose in Connecticut and the rest of the country in 2019.

Data shows rise

The GHSA made issued preliminary data for the first half of 2019. It also made projections for the rest of the year. Connecticut had 23 pedestrian fatalities from Jan. to June 2018. This rose by 19 percent to 27 deaths for the comparable time period in 2019.

The news for the rest of the country was also grim. There was three percent rise in the reported number of pedestrian deaths for the first half of 2019 compared to that time period one year earlier. The number of traffic deaths for the first half of 2018 was 2,934 compared to 3,015 for that period in 2019.

But the GHSA also estimated that the number of pedestrian fatalities in this country for all of 2019 was 6,590. This was a five percent increase, 300 deaths, from 2018. The GHSA compiled this figure after adjusting for anticipated underreporting in preliminary state data and reviewing the historic trends in these deaths during both halves of the year.

These statistics reflect a disturbing national trend going back to 2009. The 2019 data reflect the highest yearly number of pedestrian deaths since 1988. The GHSA also projected a fatality rate of 2.0 per 100,000 which is the highest number since 1997.

Causes

The GHSA attributed these deaths to several causes which are outside the control of state and local traffic officials. These include economic conditions, population growth, changes in demographics, weather, fuel prices, increases in pedestrian traffic from more people walking and changing drug use which included marijuana decriminalization in many states.

Passenger cars still constitute the highest number of vehicles involved in fatal pedestrian accidents. But more American are driving light trucks instead of passenger cars. These bigger vehicles generally cause more serious pedestrian injuries than cars. The number of pedestrian deaths caused by sport utility vehicles grew by 81 percent compared to 53 percent for passenger vehicles from 2009 to 2018.

The rise in pedestrian deaths took place mostly at night. Fatalities at night rose by 67 percent compared to a 16 percent daytime increase from 2009 to 2018.

The GHSA also cited the rise in smartphone use over the last 10 years. Using these devices diverts the driver’s concentration and vision from the road. While the rise in smartphone use coincides with the increase in traffic deaths, a definite relationship may not be established because police cannot obtain evidence that the motorist was using a personal electronic device which was mounted on a dashboard, windshield or cupholder.

However, the number of cell-phone related emergency department visits rose in proportion to the prevalence of cellphone use in this country, according to the National Electronic Injury Surveillance database. Many of these injuries took place when the user was text messaging instead of engaging in verbal conversations which may contribute to the increase in accidents.

Finally, warmer weather may have played a role, according to the GHSA. This leads to more nighttime activities such as walking and more alcohol consumption. Impairment from alcohol, by a motorist or pedestrian, was involved in approximately half of all pedestrian deaths in 2018.

Connecticut’s remedies

The Connecticut Office of Highway Safety developed an awareness campaign that includes comprehensive media, education and public outreach. Last year, seven municipalities began a non-motorized enforcement program to address growing pedestrian safety issues in their communities.

A statewide sign program was also completed that updated pedestrian signs to meet new standards. The state department of transportation is planning to improve traffic signals at state-owned intersections.

Victims of these injuries or their families may be entitled to compensation for the severe losses that are suffered in these accidents. An attorney can represent their interests in settlement negotiations and legal proceedings.