Pedestrian deaths have reached their highest levels in thirty years and stakeholders, meaning states, cities, towns, and safety organizations are trying to figure out why. Many factors could play into the answer, but one element of society present today that was hardly a consideration a generation ago is the ubiquitous use of cellphones. Cellphone usage among drivers — and pedestrians as well — may be considered the most prominent factor in the increase in pedestrian accidents and fatalities from thirty years ago according to an article appearing in the Counsel and Heal magazine. The question that stakeholders should ask is whether technology may be able to turn the tide back to a time when roads in the U.S. are much safer for pedestrians than they are now.
Counsel and Heal recognize three factors that substantially contribute to the marked increase in pedestrian fatalities over the last three years. Cellphone use is the most significant factor. Distracted driving is a massive problem in the U.S., and there is no clear way to persuade people, motorists and pedestrians alike, to put down their phones. Many states have passed laws that seek to impose civil penalties for driving while using a cell phone or otherwise distracted by an electronic device. The attempt is noble but trying to legislate bad habits out of people is the proverbial finger in the dike.
Three complementary factors play a roll in the increased number of pedestrian crashes beyond distracted driving. One element is the increased population in the U.S. The number of motorist and pedestrians increases with the increase in population. Second, vehicles in the U.S. are overgrown, especially with the introduction of the sports utility vehicle into our stream of commerce. Third, crumbling infrastructure decreases safety on U.S. roads.
Technology might be the antidote for problems caused by technology. Inserting sensors in the road designed to send alerts when roads and bridges need repairs. Increasing the amount of autonomous braking and collision avoidance systems can hopefully counterbalance the peril in which pedestrians currently find themselves.
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