Pedestrian accidents are increasing and becoming deadlier, according to a new study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Nearly 6,000 pedestrians died in vehicle crashes in 2016, which was a 46 percent increase from the low in 2009.
The IIHS study found pedestrian accidents are happening more frequently in urban or suburban areas and more commonly occur at night. The accidents happen away from intersections on busy roadways. Pedestrians are most likely to be hit by cars, but fatal accidents involving a SUV increased by 81 percent. This was the largest increase for any vehicle type.
The highway safety group believes the way to keep pedestrians safe is by improving roadways, slowing down drivers and making vehicle improvements.
Roadway improvements could make crossing the road safer
On busy roadways, a lack of intersections gives pedestrians limited options for safe crossing. Adding more crosswalks to roads would improve safety. The IIHS also believes that adding curb extensions, median crossing islands and obviously, more sidewalks would also improve pedestrian safety. Better street lighting would also make pedestrians more visible at night.
Slowing drivers down would give them more time to react
Though the IIHS research does not include consistent information about vehicle speed in fatal crashes, the safety group believes that increased speed does play a role in pedestrian fatalities. Simply put, the faster a driver is travelling, the less time he or she has to react to a pedestrian crossing a road. Lowering speed limits could increase pedestrian safety. The IIHS thinks increasing the use of speed cameras would also help slow drivers down.
Vehicle improvements could make pedestrians more visible
The highway safety group also believes vehicles could be improved to increase pedestrian’s safety. Better headlights and front crash prevention systems are two improvements the group recommends. Since SUVs are such a large percent of fatal pedestrian accidents, the IIHS also thinks changes to the designs of these vehicles would help. SUVs typically have taller front ends, so these vehicles are more likely to hit a person in the chest or head. If the front ends were redesigned to lower the height, it could potentially decrease fatalities.