When a pedestrian is injured in an accident involving a vehicle, the consequences can be devastating. In the U.S., 5,977 pedestrians were killed in traffic accidents in 2018—the highest number since 1990—and an additional 137,000 were injured, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Speed is a major factor in many of these accidents. NHTSA reports that when vehicles are traveling at 20 miles per hour or less, pedestrians have a 90 percent chance of surviving if they are involved in an accident. However, when vehicles are traveling at 30 mph or faster, that chance drops to only 50 percent.
In New York City alone, pedestrian deaths have been increasing since 2014 and hit an all-time high of 214 fatalities in 2019. The city has responded by launching Vision Zero—a program designed to reduce traffic-related fatalities and injuries—but it’s clear that more needs to be done to protect pedestrians from speeding cars and trucks.
The problem isn’t limited to large cities like New York; it’s becoming increasingly common across the country as well. A recent report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found that pedestrian fatalities rose by 53 percent nationwide between 2009 and 2018 while overall traffic deaths decreased by 6 percent over the same period.
The IIHS also found that speed played a role in many of these deaths: more than half of all pedestrian deaths occurred on roads with speed limits higher than 35 mph; nearly one-third occurred on roads with speed limits higher than 45 mph; and one out of five occurred on roads with speed limits higher than 55 mph.
It’s clear that speed plays a major role in contributing to pedestrian accidents and injuries—and reducing speeds is key to preventing them from happening in the first place. To this end, many cities are now implementing measures such as lower speed limits and increased enforcement of those limits through automated cameras or police officers patrolling busy intersections or other areas where there is likely to be heavy foot traffic from pedestrians crossing streets or walking along sidewalks alongside vehicles driving by at high speeds.
Reducing speeds also has other beneficial effects such as reducing fuel consumption and improving air quality since slower speeds mean fewer emissions released into the atmosphere due to less acceleration required for vehicles traveling at lower speeds. Additionally, research suggests that even small reductions can make a big difference: just 5 mph decrease can result in up to 10 percent fewer fatal crashes involving pedestrians while 1 mph reduction could lead to 2 percent fewer fatal crashes involving drivers aged 25 years old or younger who often drive faster than older drivers do due their inexperience behind the wheel.
In order for Vision Zero initiatives—like those implemented around New York City—to be successful long term solutions for protecting pedestrians from speeding cars and trucks, it is essential for state lawmakers across America take action now by introducing legislation which would require cities nationwide implement similar measures such as lower speed limit laws, increased enforcement via automated cameras, etc. Only then will we see greater success rates when it comes saving lives on our streets .