In no place in the U.S. is pedestrian safety more important than it is New York City. We have people on foot than anywhere else in the nation. Though many believe the city government has aggressively promoted pedestrian safety and taken needed steps to protect people crossing city streets, we still see far too many pedestrian accidents here.
Safety advocates want the federal government to join in the fight to protect pedestrians. Even the U.S. Government Accountability Office is urging federal regulators to include pedestrian safety in vehicle safety standards.
It is, of course, important that those standards measure and promote the safety of drivers and passengers, but a growing chorus of voices is demanding that pedestrian safety is factored into the standards as well.
17 per day
The GAO recently issued a statement urging the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to revise its vehicle safety standards, noting that two years ago, 17 pedestrians were killed each day as the result of being struck by vehicles. That grim total was up 43 percent from 2008.
There is abundant evidence that one of the factors contributing to that staggering increase is distracted driving. Too many drivers are paying more attention to their phones or the in-dash infotainment systems than they are to people on foot, bicyclists, other cars and traffic signals.
It’s not as by adopting vehicle safety standards that include pedestrians that the NHTSA would be doing something radical. Streetsblog notes that the change would simply mean the U.S. would finally be doing “what forward-thinking countries around the world did over a decade ago.”
Another factor in the rising pedestrian fatality rate: the increased popularity of big and heavy vehicles. SUVs and pick-up trucks are now the most popular American vehicles – in part, ironically enough, because drivers feel safer in them. But when a moving mass of metal and glass weighing upwards of 5,000 lbs. hits a human, the results can be tragic.
Because SUVs and pick-ups ride higher above the street than passenger cars, collisions with pedestrians are more likely to include head and neck injuries.
Streetsblog notes that “the probability of death for a pedestrian who gets hit by a larger-than-average vehicle is 3.4 times higher than one who gets hit by a smaller passenger car.”
Safety advocates want automakers to include tech that can protect those on foot, including cameras and sensors to detect pedestrians and then warn drivers or automatically slow vehicles. Mandating those systems on all new vehicles – large and small – would undoubtedly benefit pedestrians in Queens and across the nation.