The title of this post is identical to the title of an article written by Ashley Halsey III in the 30 March 2017 issue of the Washington Post. Pedestrian deaths soared by 25% nationally between 2010 and 2015. Pedestrians now account for 15% of all traffic deaths. Preliminary data for 2016 indicate that a the number of pedestrian deaths increased by 11% over 2015, with 6,000 people being killed in collisions with vehicles. A number of reasons for this increase were noted, but the one that caught HM’s eyes was the use of smartphones—both by drivers and people on foot.
The article includes engineering and safety measures that need to be undertaken to reduce pedestrian deaths. HM applauds these efforts, but this post is devoted to the measures pedestrians need to take to protect themselves.
The first is to not use smartphones, both as drivers and pedestrians. Many, many healthy memory posts have been written on the dangers of distracted driving. The personal risks to smartphone use by pedestrians are even greater. I’ve seen pedestrians walking, engrossed in their smartphones, who step into traffic without checking for oncoming vehicles. The HM has almost hit several of these pedestrians. Fortunately he did not. But an accident with one of these pedestrians would have haunted him for the rest of his life even though he would not have been at fault.
There are a couple of reasons pedestrians might be so careless. One is that they have never ever been hit by a vehicle, so they think vehicles are not going to hit them. What they fail to realize is that drivers certainly do not want to hit drivers, but drivers need to be given sufficient time to respond to avoid a collision.
Pedestrians also seem to assume a symmetry between their perception of automobiles and the automobile drivers’ perception of them. This problem is particularly acute at night. Although it is easy for pedestrians to see cars with their blazing lights, pedestrians are small usually dressed in dark clothing, which can make them almost impossible to see.
When HM was in public schools there were posters that were prominently displayed, “Where white at night.” What has happened to these signs? They need to be resurrected and placed in many prominent places. Today reflectors are more readily available, but why don’t pedestrians make more use of them?
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