6,227 pedestrians dead, a 30-year high
| March 28, 2019
| Heard on Morning Edition – Across the U.S., 6,227 pedestrians died in traffic accidents in 2018, the highest number in nearly 30 years.
The findings from a Governors Highway Safety Association report show that many of these deaths occurred in big cities like Houston and Miami.
The signs are all over most cities — stretches of road without crosswalks and people needing to walk on roads built for rush-hour traffic.
But the real increase, experts say, comes from larger trends: drivers and pedestrians distracted by their phones and a growth of larger vehicles on the road.
Macon, Ga., isn’t immune to any of these problems. Home to 110,000 residents, one in every 8,000 died in a pedestrian accident last year. Violet Poe lost her friend Amos Harris, 62, in 2014.
“Amos was a good person. He was really kindhearted,” she said. Walking between traffic cones and the curb of a five-lane highway, she pointed to the street he would have walked down that night.
Harris had been out after dark, searching for his nephew, when he crossed Riverview Road at a blinking light.
“He came down and crossed here and was hit,” she explained. His body was thrown 100 feet.
Georgia is one of five states that made up nearly half of all the nation’s pedestrian fatalities in 2018. The others were Texas, Arizona, Florida and California, which had 432.
Several of these states also had a significant increase in population, which the report finds is a contributing factor in the fatalities.
‘Designed for cars and not for people’
But population growth, like jaywalking, isn’t central to the problem, according to Tom Ellington, chair of Macon’s Pedestrian Safety Review Board.
The county created the board to address the city’s long-standing problem with pedestrian fatalities.
Ellington said blaming jaywalkers for the problem ignores the big picture. “We’ve spent decades building a transportation system that’s designed for cars and not for people,” he said. Read more.