A report released by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) suggests that pedestrian cell phone use is almost as deadly as texting and driving. The report found a 10% increase in the amount of pedestrian deaths in the first six months of 2015; the largest year to year increase in those types of deaths within the last four decades. GHSA stated that this increase may also be due to lower gas prices resulting in more road trips being taken than in 2014. However, cell phones are known for having a strong hold on people’s attention that could be severely harmful.
Richard Retting, co-author of the report released by the GHSA, stated that there has never been a 10% increase in only one year. He also stated that the amount of cell phone data used on a regular basis is “explosive” which factors into the elevation of pedestrian deaths. Studies have shown that people using their cell phones while walking have slower reaction times and pay less attention to their surroundings. As of January 2014, 9 of 10 adults in the United States owned a cell phone, which prompted lawmakers to ban texting while driving in 46 states and the District of Columbia.
The pedestrian death rate is estimated to have increased from 4,884 in 2014 to 5,300 in 2015; pedestrian death rates now account for 15% of all traffic fatalities, a 4% increase from 10 years ago. Increases in pedestrian deaths have also been seen in geographical locations with Florida and Arizona continuing to have the highest pedestrian death rates at 1.35 and 1.27 per every 100,000 people, however increases were seen in states that do not usually have high rates. Ohio, Minnesota, Montana, and Oregon doubled their pedestrian death rates from 2014 in just the first six months of 2015; 27 other states also saw increases.
Data from the National Highway Traffic Administration shows that about 72% of traffic-related pedestrian fatalities occur at night and 1/3 of those accidents involve people who consumed alcohol, keeping alcohol as the leading cause of pedestrian deaths. Retting said most of those accidents could be prevented if pedestrians wore bright clothing, stayed alert, and crossed the street at well lit crosswalks. 34% of pedestrians killed had a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or higher and 15% of drivers being alcohol impaired, bringing the total of alcohol related deaths to 49%.
Alcohol is a major factor in traffic accidents; Retting believes that if alcohol consumption could be excluded, numerous lives would be saved. There are other factors at play such as warmer temperatures leading more people to be outside walking, increased speed limits in some states, and reduced traffic enforcement in other areas. The Federal Highway Administration estimates that Americans traveled 3.1 trillion miles in 2015, a 3.5% increase from the previous year due to an improving economy and higher rates of employment allowing people more opportunity to go out and take vacations. Although an improving economy is good, one of the prices we pay is an increase in traffic fatalities.