The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

The Alarming Rise of Distracted Pedestrians

March 2017, by Andy Lundin - Also by this author

Photo courtesy of
Photo courtesy of

When fleets consider risky driver behaviors, the epidemic of distracted driving remains a hot button topic, especially in regards to cellphone usage. However, another disconcerting behavior fleets should be aware of is the rise of distracted walking.

Studies of Distracted Behavior

There was an 8.8% increase in the number of distraction-affected fatalities in 2015, compared with 2014, according to data released in 2016 from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Fatalities in distraction-affected crashes increased from 3,197 to 3,477, the study found.

A study from the Journal of Safety Research from 2013 titled “Ambulatory cellphone injuries in the United States: An emerging national concern” looked at the amount of accidents related to distracted pedestrians between 2000 to 2011 and found that the number had increased gradually over the years. While the study did not focus directly on pedestrians involved in automobile accidents, the data itself is still very telling, according to Ken Kolosh, manager, statistics department at the National Safety Council

“It really does give us a clue that more and more, in our daily lives, we are distracted walking in our homes and public places,” said Kolosh.

Indeed, more than 1,500 pedestrians nationwide in 2012 were treated in emergency rooms as a result of being injured while walking and engaged in cellphone conversations. This was more than twice the number reported in 2005, according to a study from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Adjusting Driver Behavior

While this data may be alarming for fleet drivers, ensuring that they operate at a proper speed on the road can help diminish potential risks for pedestrian injury.

A pedestrian has a 25% risk of severe injury or 10% chance of death when struck by a vehicle traveling 23 mph, according to a 2011 AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety report. The same study also found a pedestrian has 90% chance of severe injury when struck by a vehicle moving at 46 mph and a 75% chance of death if the driver is traveling at 50 mph.

Recent Data

In the first month of 2017, several publications throughout the U.S. found a record-setting number of pedestrians died in 2016 due to vehicle-related collisions.

Last year, Colorado reported that pedestrian deaths reached a 15-year high of 84, according to the Denver Post. Meanwhile, the number of pedestrian deaths in Minnesota last year reached a 25-year high with 60, according to a recent report from the StarTribune. Further still, amNewYork, a Manhattan, N.Y.-based newspaper, reported that pedestrian fatalities in New York City also rose in 2016.

“We know distracted driving is increasing, and we have pretty good evidence that distracted walking is increasing,” said Kolosh. “Everyone is pretty concerned that distraction from both the driver and the pedestrian is contributing to this huge increase with overall pedestrian deaths.”

Kolosh encouraged the idea of creating an environment in which pedestrians have a better understanding of the risks associated with distracted walking.

“At the end of the day, what I think we need is a cultural shift,” he said. “We’re so dependent on our phones and so accustomed to using our phones while walking around.”

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