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Road, Auto Design Improvements Key in Minimizing Pedestrian Fatalities

Pedestrian fatalities in Georgia and across the country continue to remain stubbornly high. Recent research, however, indicates that improvements in auto and road design may play a significant role in helping minimize these deaths every year.

In 2009, there were a total of 4,092 pedestrian accident fatalities across the country. That was a record drop from prior years, but since then the numbers have increased by an alarming 49 percent. In 2016, a total of 5,987 pedestrian accident fatalities were recorded nationwide, the highest number recorded since 1990. As the economy has improved, more motorists have returned to the roads, creating an increase of hazardous conditions for pedestrians.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety earlier this year studied pedestrian accident patterns across the country, and made some very interesting conclusions. The report found that more and more of these pedestrian accidents are occurring in suburban or urban areas, intersections and busy arterial roads. They are also more likely to occur in the dark, and involve large vehicles, like SUVs.

Between 2009 and 2016, the highest pedestrian fatality increases occurred in urban areas, which recorded an average increase of 54 percent. There was an increase of 67 percent in fatalities on arterial roads. The increase on arterial roads can be traced to the fact that these roads typically have few pedestrian crosswalks and higher volumes of traffic. About 56 percent of pedestrian fatalities occurred in the dark.  Fatalities involving pedestrians and SUVs increased by 81 percent, a testament to the fact that these large vehicles are having an increased presence on the roads.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety report recommends more road safety improvements such as pedestrian activated cross-signals at crosswalks that encourage pedestrians to stop safely and then cross. The increasing number of accidents involving pedestrians and high-powered vehicles like SUVs indicates that faster cars are more likely to be involved in collisions with pedestrians. This also points to the need for lowering speed limits in areas that are particularly prone to these deadly crashes. For instance, the use of speed cameras has been found to significantly lower pedestrian accident deaths in some areas. This supports the argument that use of these systems should be expanded across Georgia.

Additionally, improvements to vehicle design could further help reduce pedestrian deaths, especially those that occur in the dark. Improvements to headlights, for example, could help reduce the number of fatal accidents at night.  Enhancements to crash prevention systems that focus more on identifying and avoiding pedestrians in front of the vehicle will also help reduce those numbers even more.