But with that freedom comes potential danger. Even law-abiding and careful pedestrians are vulnerable to negligent drivers. All it takes is one driver to run a red light, fail to yield on a turn or otherwise disregard pedestrian safety to cause a disaster.
It appears that American crosswalks are becoming more dangerous. A report by the Governor’s Highway Safety Association says that pedestrian deaths in traffic accidents went up in 2015, the largest year-over-year increase ever recorded, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
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The GHSA’s report, titled “Spotlight on Highway Safety Report,” says that 2,368 pedestrians died after being hit by motor vehicles in the first six months of 2015. Over the same portion of 2014, 2,332 were killed. Extrapolating from those figures, and adjusting for expected underreporting, the report predicts that the final pedestrian fatality numbers for 2015 will be 10 percent higher than for 2014.
If so, that would be the largest year-over-year increase in pedestrian deaths since at least 1975, when national figures first began to be kept. Four states were the scenes of 42 percent of these terrible incidents: California, Florida, Texas and New York. It is perhaps not a coincidence that those are the four largest states by population, but surely there are streets in those states that lack painted crosswalks and sufficient signage.
Government officials can take steps to improve pedestrian safety, but ultimately it is up to drivers to respect pedestrians’ right of way and obey the law. When they don’t, it may be up to the victim to sue to obtain justice.