The recent increase in highway deaths is not limited to drivers and occupants. Pedestrian fatalities have increased even more sharply, up an estimated 11% in 2016 (final figures not yet available), following an increase in 2015 too. Indeed, total pedestrian fatalities are up 25% since 2010, according to research by Sam Schwartz Transportation Consultants, noted by the Wall Street Journal. That’s while total traffic fatalities rose about 6% during the same period. At the same time, pedestrian fatalities rose from 11% of total highway deaths in 2006 to 15% in 2015. Total miles travelled have not increased as sharply. And there’s no sign of an increase in drunk driving. Why the increase in deaths?
“Researchers say they think the biggest factor may be more drivers and walkers distracted by cellphones and other electronic devices, although that is hard to confirm,” WSJ wrote. Other observers have said the same, though most of the reports have been anecdotal. Some data is beginning to emerge. Indeed, a study by Cambridge Mobile Telematics “found that, in most crashes, distracted driving plays a role,” AOL.com reported recently. The study found that in 52% of hundreds of thousands of crashes reviewed, “drivers had been on their phones. These weren’t just fender benders – 29% of the drivers were doing over 56 miles per hour.” Analysis also showed that texting, browsing and email were the most common distractions and “the average duration of distraction was 135 seconds.” Among those using smart phones while driving, almost 60% said they were glancing at texts, but over 40% admitted to “actively engaging” in texting. Almost 20% were “actively engaging” with email and/or photos/selfies.