Windshield bias among transportation professionals shifts safety burden onto pedestrians

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.

The persistence of pedestrianism

An investigation of the “persistence of pedestrianism,” written by Peter Norton, explores the history of both the rise of the dominance of automobiles as personal transportation and the continuing pushback by pedestrian advocates against this dominance from the 1920s to the 1960s. It is a fascinating look at how our perception of the urban landscape and mobility has been shaped by social and commercial forces as well as a rejection of the idea that most Americans drive because they prefer auto travel over walking. Norton instead contends that the cause and effect have been confused in most transportation analyses; people don’t walk, not because driving is their preferred method of travel, but because walking has been made so difficult.

Nighttime pedestrian fatalities soar

While other crash types have gone down, pedestrian and bicycle crashes continue to rise, and crashes happening at night account for 90 percent of the increase in pedestrian fatalities in the last ten years. A recent article asks, “Why?” but comes to no definitive conclusion. The authors cites possible factors for the rise in nighttime pedestrian fatalities: A general increase in people walking and biking for transportation, larger vehicles such as SUVs are more deadly to those outside the vehicle; more people are working at night; and new autonomous technologies do not do well detecting pedestrians, especially in low-light conditions. One factor not mentioned in the article is the number of lighted devices now in vehicles, but research in this area appears to be slim.

Auto-braking is becoming more common, but the tech is still evolving

One hope for reversing the growing death toll among pedestrians and cyclists lies in technology that senses crashes before they happen and avoids them. About half the new cars sold have automated emergency braking technology, and these systems have the potential to prevent thousands of crashes each year. But AEB in some cars is far from perfect, as a recent AAA report shows. Even under ideal conditions, the cars tested often hit pedestrian dummies.

It’s not distracted walking that is killing NYC pedestrians

“[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.

People weigh risk versus convenience in whether to use pedestrian bridges

Pedestrian bridges may help keep people away from heavy traffic, but only if people are willing to use them. And that often isn’t the case, according to a new study in Accident Analysis & Prevention. People will cross at street level to avoid tall or narrow, constrained bridges, according to the study, and they usually take extra precautions when crossing at street level.

Active transportation fatalities spike again

Although cars are getting safer, saving drivers and passengers from dying on our roads and highways, the number of pedestrian and bicyclist deaths are increasing dramatically. The latest numbers from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Traffic Safety Facts show that while overall 2018 traffic fatalities decreased about one percent compared to 2017, pedestrian and bicyclist deaths increased four and ten percent, respectively.