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Cyclists and Pedestrians Beware: Why Deaths Shot Up, Even as Car Safety Improves for Drivers

rate of fatal car accidents

Improvements in vehicle and traffic safety have resulted in a significant decrease in motorist fatalities over the past five decades. Almost 55,000 Americans were killed in traffic accidents yearly in the early 1970s. The United States recorded a decline in the accident fatality rate from 27,348 in 2006 to 23,611 in 2017, even with an increase in the number of vehicle miles driven.

The decrease in fatalities can be attributed to increased vehicle reliability, improvements in safety features (brake assist, automatic driving lights, lane departure sensors, backup cameras, and others), better-constructed roads, and improved illumination of roads and highways.

Rise in Fatal Pedestrian and Cyclist Accidents

In stark contrast to the marked reduction in the rate of fatal car crashes, the number of fatal bicycle accidents last year increased by approximately 10% to what is believed to be the highest level since 1988, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). At the same time, fatal pedestrian crashes rose 4%. Click here for more information about bicycle accidents.

In Washington, D.C., for example, the accident fatality rate declined in 2018 compared to the previous year, but the number of pedestrian and cyclist deaths increased by 20%. New York City and Los Angeles recorded similar findings. If we look at the entire nation since 2010, cyclist fatalities have increased by 25%, and pedestrian deaths have increased by 45%.

Possible Reasons for the Rise in Fatal Pedestrian and Cyclist Accidents

There are many plausible explanations for the increase in fatal accidents for pedestrians and cyclists. One potential reason is that city developers and planners often focus on optimizing their plans for automobile traffic and ignore or invest less in safe options for bikes and pedestrians.

The sheer size of automobiles, and now pickup trucks and SUVs, their increasing ability to block outside noise, vulnerable blind spots, and the multiplying distractions drivers face also have contributed to the rise of fatal pedestrian and cyclist accidents. NHTSA discovered the ever-increasing vehicle safety features tend to make the vehicle occupants safe, but not the pedestrians or cyclists outside the vehicle.

Pedestrians and cyclists are especially at risk of injury or death because, while cities are increasingly encouraging their residents to walk and bike, these municipalities are not taking the critically necessary steps to improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists.

While lowering the speed limit on city streets could help, not all municipalities are willing or prepared to do so. Bike lanes are not always present and often end abruptly, forcing cyclists to merge with traffic. Not all roads have sidewalks, and pedestrians are often forced to walk on the shoulder near traffic where they are not provided.

Fundamentally, many cities and towns are not suited for automobiles to co-exist with pedestrians and cyclists. These vulnerable groups also must rely on drivers to obey the rules of the road – including yielding right-of-way to pedestrians and sharing the road with cyclists – and they often fail to operate their vehicles safely and responsibly near them.

Contact Tate Law Offices, P.C., for Help

At Tate Law Offices, P.C., our skilled trial lawyers have extensive experience handling both cyclist and pedestrian injury claims. When someone else’s negligence causes you harm, we’ll be there to help you seek justice.

Call us, use our live chat feature, or fill out a contact form to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation with us today.


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