The number of pedestrians killed in traffic collisions across the U.S. dropped significantly in the first half of 2013, USA Today says, citing a report by the Governors Highway Safety Association. This comes after three straight years of increases in pedestrian deaths.
Pedestrian fatalities dropped 8.7 percent during the first six months of 2013 from the same time period in 2012. From January to June in 2012, 2,175 pedestrians were killed in accidents. The first six months of 2013 saw 1,985 pedestrian deaths.
Florida, one of the worst states in the country for pedestrian deaths, saw a 23.5 percent drop in pedestrian fatalities, from 234 in the first half of 2012 to 179 in the same period last year.
In Hillsborough County, an area notorious for pedestrian accidents, there were 32 pedestrian deaths in 2012, which is the most current data available. This was the same number killed in 2011.
Experts on pedestrian safety don’t know why there has been such a decrease.
Allan Williams, who put together the report, told USA Today that he didn’t know whether the 2013 numbers were an anomaly. As the economy has improved, fewer people may be walking, he said.
Williams said that distracted behavior by both drivers and pedestrians may be in part responsible for the previous increases. Perhaps people have become more cautious when driving and walking.
Mark Plotz, vice president of Project for Public Spaces, parent group of the National Center for Bicycling and Walking, agrees with Williams. He said he hoped that better law enforcement and efforts to improve safety for drivers, walkers and bicyclists are making a difference.
Florida has been making efforts to curb pedestrian accidents. These efforts include adding two full-time bike and pedestrian safety specialists to each of the seven Department of Transportation district offices, with one member of each team focusing on planning and designing roads while the other concentrates on safety programs.
Florida sought out an assessment from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of the state’s bike and pedestrian safety programs then put together a strategic plan. This plan included adding education components, rewriting traffic laws, increasing the use of roundabouts, and reducing the number of lanes on certain roads to discourage speeding.
The drop in pedestrian fatalities across Florida is great news for everyone who uses the state’s roadways.