Pedestrian Fatalities in the Carolinas See Major Increase

by Gwen Newell

The number of pedestrians killed annually on roadways in both North and South Carolina has nearly doubled since 2009 according to new analysis from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. This surpasses a 53 percent nationwide increase in pedestrian deaths over the same period of time, after decreasing for three decades. Altogether, across the country, more pedestrians have lost their lives in 2018 than any other year since 1990.

Although major risk factors for pedestrian crashes, injuries, and deaths are well-documented (ie. high speeds, large vehicles, poor lighting) and some studies have examined long-term trends in pedestrian fatalities, not much is known about the factors underlying the large increase in pedestrian fatalities in recent years.

Other key findings from the analysis:

  • Across the country, the startling jump in deaths occurred almost entirely in urban areas, much of it at mid-block locations along arterials (major roads designed to move large volumes of traffic). Urban crashes account for 93 percent of the total national increase in pedestrian fatalities.
  • Non-white populations are over-represented among pedestrian fatalities. Deaths of Black and Hispanic pedestrians increased by a larger amount than white pedestrians on a percentage basis.
  • Nationwide, pedestrians killed at non-intersection locations without crosswalks rose 70 percent from 2009 to 2018.
  • Three out of every four pedestrians killed on U.S. roads in 2018 were struck in darkness. Fatalities in darkness also account for the vast majority of the overall increase in pedestrian fatalities since 2009. The number of pedestrians killed in darkness in 2018 was larger than the total number of pedestrians killed in any and all lighting conditions in 2009, 2010 or 2011.
  • 84 percent of all pedestrian fatalities in 2018, and 84 percent of the overall increase in pedestrian fatalities over the study period, occurred on roads with speed limits of 30 mph or higher. Past AAA Foundation research has shown that when a pedestrian is struck by a vehicle, their chances of survival drops precipitously with each additional mile per hour increase in speed at speeds above roughly 25 mph.
  • Alcohol remains a problem among pedestrian fatalities, as 32 percent of all pedestrians who died had a blood alcohol concentration equal to or greater than the legal limit for driving. Still, sober pedestrians’ fatalities increased by a larger amount over the study period, both in raw numbers and on a percentage basis. The number of sober pedestrians killed in 2018 was nearly as large as the total number of pedestrians killed in 2009.

Safety Tips for Drivers:

  • Look out for pedestrians at all times. When you are operating a vehicle, you have accepted a heightened responsibility for other people on the road. Safety is a two-way street. Often, pedestrians— especially younger ones— are not where you would expect them to be. Remain vigilant.
  • Follow posted speed limits, especially in areas of heavy pedestrian traffic. This is even more important in areas that have lower speed limits, such as school zones and neighborhood streets where pedestrians may appear suddenly.
  • Overall visibility is limited in bad weather conditions and poorly lit areas. Not only is it more difficult for drivers to see oncoming pedestrians, it also is harder for pedestrians to see you. Make sure your lights are on and you use your signals properly. Use extra caution in these circumstances.
  • Put down your phone. Smartphones and handheld electronic devices take your eyes off of the road and distract your attention.
  • Always yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk. When approaching a crosswalk, reduce your speed and be prepared to stop. When you are stopped at a crosswalk, allow enough room between your vehicle and the crosswalk so other drivers can see the pedestrians you have stopped for. Do not pass vehicles stopped at a crosswalk: They have stopped to allow pedestrians to pass or make sure the way is clear.

Safety Tips for Pedestrians:

  • Never assume a driver will give you the right of way. Make every effort to make eye contact with the driver of a stopped or approaching vehicle before entering the roadway.
  • Use crosswalks when crossing the street. If a crosswalk is unavailable, be sure to find the most well-lit spot on the road to cross and wait for a long enough gap in traffic to make it safely across the street.
  • Stay on sidewalks whenever possible. If a sidewalk is not available, be sure to walk on the far side of the road facing traffic. This will help increase your visibility to drivers.
  • Know and follow all traffic rules, signs and signals. You need to be aware of the rules vehicles around you must follow to properly anticipate what drivers will do.

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