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Watch Your Step. Pedestrian Deaths Are on the Rise

Watch Your Step. Pedestrian Deaths Are on the Rise

Get out for a walk. That’s what are doctors are telling us to get healthier and to extend our lives. There is no doubt the benefits are enormous.

However, here in Wisconsin and across the nation, stepping out into the street while taking that walk can in fact be very unhealthy. Lately, once you put yourself out in traffic you run an increasing risk of severe injury and, many times, death.

The recent skyrocketing pedestrian fatalities have created a public health crisis. Nationally, since 2009, these deaths have gone up considerably.

Over the past eight years that number has increased 46%, with almost 6,000 people killed while taking a walk after dinner, hurrying off to work or trying to cross the street. For some perspective, more Americans have died on the streets during this time period than have died in combat in Iraq.

Wisconsin has been part of that climb in foot traffic deaths. According to a recent article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, there were 59 pedestrian fatalities in 2017, up from 49 in 2016. In 2009, the number of those deaths stood at 35.

What’s Up with These Accidents Being Up?

Of course a 150 lb person is no match for vehicles ranging from 3,000 to nearly 6,000 lbs. But why the sharp increase lately? Experts see various reasons for the problem.

Distracted phoning. This is a problem for both walkers and drivers. While concentrating on that phone call or podcast, walkers have wandered onto the street and into on-coming traffic.

Inside the car, same problem, especially when the driver is texting. You may think that you are only glancing at the phone for a second or two. But if you are travelling just 30 mph your car could be halfway down the block before your attention goes back to the street. This leads to…

Thinking the on-coming car is going to stop. You may have the right of way but regardless, you can be the big loser of this argument, especially when that two tons of metal hurtling towards you is driven by someone texting.

Even if the drivers are alert, they may not recognize your right to be on the road. A recent study from the University of Wisconsin found that one in six drivers were observed lawfully yielding to pedestrians. Those are your odds when a car is heading in your direction.

WUI (walking under the influence). People think this problem only applies when behind the wheel. Given the alcohol culture in this state, more than a few intoxicated walkers are stumbling into traffic. But even if you are not under the influence, again don’t count on the driver in that approaching car being sober or alert.

Bigger and Badder. U.S. auto makers are turning out fewer compact and mid-sized cars and are selling larger vehicles, including SUVs. This is bad news for pedestrians. A study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found an 81% increase in single-vehicle fatalities involving SUVs since 2009, thanks to their growing number and their higher front ends, which may impair the ability of drivers to see the person on the street.

As you have seen, the causes of these accidents are a two-way street. In our next blog in this series, we will cover what you need to do to avoid these accidents and what to do if you are victim of a collision while walking.

In the meantime, if you become a victim of a pedestrian accident, call us at 414-272-3776.

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