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Department of Transportation warns of dangers to pedestrians

August 05, 2013|By Marina Villeneuve
  • A student walks across West Temple street at Laveta Terrace in Los Angeles.
A student walks across West Temple street at Laveta Terrace in Los Angeles. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times )

WASHINGTON -- After decades of fewer pedestrians being killed in traffic crashes, the number has risen in the past several years, leading the Department of Transportation to warn of the dangers of walking while on drugs, drinking alcohol, or using a cellphone.
"Everyone in America is a pedestrian," Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said. "Every pedestrian death is one too many."
New York, Los Angeles and Chicago have the highest percentages of pedestrian fatalities of total motor vehicle deaths in the country, according to the department’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The top 22 cities with pedestrian deaths far greater than the national average have until Aug. 30 to apply for a total of $2 million in pedestrian safety grants from the Department’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The group, with the Federal Highway Administration, has launched a website with safety tips and resources.
Pedestrians, like drivers, may be guilty of focusing too much on smartphones when traversing streets. Approximately 1,152 pedestrians were treated in emergency rooms during 2011 after being injured while using a portable electronic device like a cellphone, according to a recent U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission report.
Many people say they routinely text, answer emails, talk on their phones or listen to music while walking, with 70% admitting they realize the danger of mistakenly stepping into traffic in the process, according to an April survey conducted by Liberty Mutual Insurance.
The total number of people dying in all traffic crashes dropped 25% from 2002 to 2011, decreasing from 43,005 such fatalities in 2002 to 32,367 in 2011.
Pedestrian deaths have not experienced the same drop-off after reaching 7,500 in 1975. Now, slightly more pedestrians are dying in traffic crashes than in 2009, rising 8% from a low of 4,109 to 4,432 deaths in 2011. About 69,000 people were injured in traffic crashes in 2011.
Pedestrian deaths now account for 14% of total fatalities, compared with 11% from 2002 to 2007. Three out of four deaths – 73% – occurred in urban areas; more than two out of three deaths (70%) occurred at non-intersections.
More male pedestrians were killed or injured in traffic crashes than women, representing 70% of pedestrians killed in 2011. One-third of deaths occurred between 8 p.m. and midnight, rising to 39% during that time on the weekend.
Alcohol was involved in 48% of traffic crashes resulting in pedestrian fatalities – 37% of pedestrians had a blood alcohol concentration above the legal limit, compared with 13% of drivers involved in crashes. Most deaths (70%) occurred at night.

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