The Governors Highway Safety Association released a report March 30, 2017 that shows that the number of pedestrians killed in traffic in 2016 reached 6,000. That is the highest number in more than twenty years. It represents an 11 percent increase over last year.

How many times have you seen someone crossing a street while looking at his Smartphone? How many pedestrians have you seen crossing in the middle of the street instead of at intersections? How many people have you seen trying to beat the crossing light by leaping out in front of a car in the Loop? How many drunk pedestrians have you seen walking in the street at night?

“We have noticed over the years increases in the number of injuries related to distracted walking—pedestrians being distracted by cellphones and then injuring themselves because of that distraction,” said Maureen Vogel, spokesman for the National Safety Council. “So it’s entirely possible that it is at play, not just on our roadways but on our sidewalks.”

Vehicle speeds remain an even bigger problem for pedestrians. “Speed is a killer for sure,” says Melody Geraci, deputy executive director of the Active Transportation Alliance. “If a pedestrian is struck at 20 miles an hour, they have a 10 percent chance of dying. If they are struck at 40 miles an hour, they have an 80 percent chance of dying.”

Some cities, including New York, have reduced the speed limit on most streets to 25 miles per hour to protect pedestrians. Others have installed traffic calming devices such as speed bumps.

According to the Governors Highway Safety Administration, 74 percent of pedestrian fatalities occurred at night, and 72 percent of those killed were not crossing at intersections.

Alcohol is another significant factor. The Governors Safety Highway Administration report showed that 15 percent of pedestrians killed each year are hit by a drunk driver, while 34 percent of pedestrians killed are legally drunk themselves.

“We’ve done a good job in highway safety in telling people that when you go out to the bar and you’re drunk, don’t get behind the wheel,” says Governors Highway Safety Association executive director Jonathan Adkins. “But you should really be careful about walking, particularly if you’re walking at night, and you’re walking a distance. You’re not gonna have good judgment, a car’s not gonna see you . . . [so] don’t walk home at night when you’re hammered.”

—By Karen Centowski

To see a humorous video about the dangers of distracted walking, go to Distracted Walking PSA You Tube at

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