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IIHS report recommends solutions to reduce pedestrian fatalities

A few weeks ago I wrote about our visit to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) testing facility where they test cars for safety and stated that they were preparing to study crash avoidance technologies for their ability to protect pedestrian and bicyclists.

IIHS Crash Avoidance

This week, IIHS released a new report An examination of the increases in pedestrian motor vehicle crash fatalities during 2009–16, and an accompanying 3-minute video and blog summary.

The report not only studies the trends in pedestrian fatalities, finding they are more likely to occur at mid-block, at night, and on arterials, but does a good job of looking at pedestrian behavior and offering solutions rather than blaming the victim. The report offers a variety of potential engineering solutions, stating: “Transportation agencies can improve urban arterials by investing in proven countermeasures, such as road diets, median crossing islands, pedestrian hybrid beacons, and automated speed enforcement. Better road lighting and vehicle headlights could improve pedestrian visibility at night.”

The study also responds to suggestions that distracted and intoxicated walking are a cause of increases in pedestrian fatalities. When looking at intoxicated walking, IIHS found that in roughly 1/3 of crashes involving a pedestrian over the age 16, the pedestrian had a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) above the legal limit for driving of 0.08g/dl or higher. (Roughly 1/3 of drivers involved in a crash also have a BAC of 0.08 or higher). However, the increase in pedestrian fatalities between 2009 and 2016 was significantly higher among those with a BAC of 0.00g/dl than those with a BAC of 0.08g/dl. The findings indicate that causes other than alcohol contributed to the increase in fatalities over the time period.

The IIHS report also discusses, but did not study, distracted walking; instances where pedestrians crossed the street while looking at or typing on their phone, or listening to music, which has also been cited as a possible cause for increased pedestrian fatalities. IIHS did not study these instances because coding on police reports is unreliable. However, the report notes that most anecdotal reports of distracted walking report that it occurs in crosswalks during daylight. IIHS’s study found that the highest increases in pedestrian fatalities occurred at night and mid-block. To understand the role, if any, of distracted walking in increasing pedestrian fatalities, these behaviors would need to be studied in mid-block and in the dark crossings.

The League thanks IIHS for their research on pedestrian safety and their systematic approach to suggesting solutions. We look forward to their testing of crash avoidance technologies (previewed in the video) for pedestrians and bicyclists.

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