Transportation professionals who spend more time behind the wheel tend to believe distracted walking plays an overstated role in pedestrian deaths, according to a new Rutgers study. This belief can steer professionals toward trying to correct pedestrian behavior, rather than focusing on the change that would reduce pedestrian deaths most: lowering vehicle speeds.
“[NYC]DOT found little concrete evidence that device-induced distracted walking contributes significantly to pedestrian fatalities and injuries.” So concludes a recent report examining whether device-distracted walkers are killing themselves by stepping out in front of motor vehicles. It’s dangerous driver behavior—speeding and failure to yield—that is killing pedestrians.
A study from Australia gives some insights into use of social media while driving, looking not just at the incidence, but also what deters the behavior. But while the study began as a general look at use of all social media by young drivers, it ended up focused on the use of Snapchat as the most common mobile phone behavior in the car.
With vehicle-related fatalities exceeding 40,000 annually, the search is on to isolate causes. On the distraction front, the driver behavior analytics company Zendrive has released its 2018 Distracted Driving Snapshot based on analyzing the behavior of 4.5 million Zendrive users. The report finds a high level of phone use, although researchers have yet to establish a causal relationship between distraction and crashes.
Are cell phones to blame for rising traffic deaths? We have looked for evidence before and came up empty-handed. A new study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety suggests that drivers are just as distracted now as they were a few years ago, but some are swapping old distractions for new ones, like handheld phones. That could be a problem, according the study, but it doesn’t explain why our roads have become so dangerous.
Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death among school children. Although some cities and schools that have implemented safety programs around schools have seen decreases in dangerous driving in school zones, those improvements have been more than offset by worsening driver behavior near schools across the country.
Pedestrian deaths hovered around 6,000 in 2017, according to a new report from the Governor’s Highway Safety Association. That’s a slight drop from the previous year but still 45 percent higher than in 2009. Media reports have hyped a handful of theories to explain the recent uptick—namely, distracted cell phone use and marijuana legalization—but years of data from across the U.S. and abroad points to one clear trend. The more we design our communities mainly around the automobile, the more we drive, and the more dangerous roads become.
A California law prohibiting drivers from holding their phone in their hands for any reason has succeeded in getting drivers to put down their phones. However, the crash rate has not decreased significantly. As SSTI has pointed out in the past, although cell phone use has been shown to cause distraction, crash rates are much more closely tied to VMT than the presence of distractions.
Representatives from the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America and NHTSA called distracted driving a “serious public safety concern” and a “crisis.” Yet there still doesn’t seem to be any compelling evidence linking the surging death rate to distracted driving. AAA reported earlier this month that in-vehicle touchscreens and voice activated systems could pose new problems. But the newest numbers from U.S. DOT—released the same week as the AAA report—show deaths related to distracted driving dropped 2.2 percent in 2016, while traffic deaths increased 5.6 percent overall.
The Montana Transportation Commission recently voted 4-1 to allow digital billboards along highways in areas zoned commercial or industrial. However, they are subject to a number of restrictions aimed at reducing their distraction to drivers—prohibiting movement and flashing, requiring a minimum display time of eight seconds, limiting brightness, keeping them away from intersections, and setting spacing requirements between signs. While digital signs are getting the go ahead in Montana, they are facing opposition in other parts of the country.