Fueled by ubiquitous sport utility vehicles and distracted drivers, Pennsylvania has recorded a 41% increase in the number of pedestrian fatalities in the first six months of 2018 compared to the same period the previous year, reveals a new report.
Pennsylvania was not alone.
The more than 6,200 pedestrians killed on US roads in 2018 represent the largest number of deaths in nearly three decades. Ninety pedestrians were killed by motorists in Pennsylvania in the first six months of 2018, compared to 64 during the same period in 2017.
Published by the Governors Highway Safety Association, preliminary figures reveal a sobering trend.
"We are seeing the highest number of pedestrian deaths nationally in 30 years," said Russ Martin, the association's director of policy and government relations, at Tribune-Review.
Martin added, "I think the big thing to remember here is that we have this problem that gets worse."
Among the results:
• After 19 years of decline, the number of pedestrian deaths has been on the rise since 2009.
• Over the 10-year period from 2008 to 2017, the number of pedestrian fatalities nationwide increased by 35% from 4,414 to 5,977.
• Although the number of pedestrian deaths has steadily increased, all other traffic-related deaths have dropped by 6%.
• Pedestrian deaths account for 16% of all road traffic deaths, up from 12% 10 years ago.
• The number of pedestrian fatalities increased in 25 states, including Pennsylvania, from January 1 to June 30, 2018 compared to the previous year.
Transportation experts highlighted a number of factors contributing to the rise, including distracted driving, alcohol and SUVs. The number of sport utility vehicles involved in the death of pedestrians since 2013 has increased at an accelerated rate: an increase of 50% compared to 30% for passenger cars.
The pedestrian-friendly urban movement and the aging infrastructure built solely for cars have also been implicated.
Nighttime crashes from 2008 to 2017 accounted for 90% of the increase in the number of pedestrian fatalities. About 60% of all deaths in Canada occur on local streets and highways.
The most recent pedestrian death in the region occurred in January when a 75-year-old man, 75 years old, was hit by a hit-and-run driver near the slopes on the south side. The victim, John J. Kulinski, was hit while crossing the 2,200 block of Arlington Avenue.
"Crossing the street should not be a death sentence," said Richard Retting, the author of the report, in a statement.
In Pennsylvania, pedestrian deaths account for about 10 to 14 percent of road deaths, said Erin Waters-Trasatt, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.
"In Pennsylvania, PennDOT's mission is to maintain and improve safety, no matter how you travel," Waters-Trasatt said in an email to Trib.
In the five years between 2013 and 2017, 792 pedestrians were killed on Pennsylvania roads. Counties in southwestern Pennsylvania, which include Allegheny, accounted for about 12% of all pedestrian deaths over a five-year period.
The report revealed that each state had taken steps to address the issue of pedestrian safety with a number of tactics. Pennsylvania forces carried out targeted attacks that trapped motorists who did not give way to pedestrians using pedestrian crossings. The state is focused on various technical solutions, including bike lanes, speed tables or bumps and raised intersections.
Karina Ricks, director of the new Pittsburgh Mobility and Infrastructure Department, said the changes would not have to be expensive. She also noted that Pittsburgh has 1,000 miles of roads. The goal is not death, even if it is not quite feasible.
"The only way to absolutely guarantee the absence of pedestrian deaths is to make everyone a driver, and that's not what we want," Ricks said.
The annual report of the Governors Highway Safety Association on pedestrian fatalities is based on preliminary 2018 data provided by states. To read a full copy of the report, go to https://www.ghsa.org.