With all the beautiful places to see in New Orleans, it's often tempting to opt for a walk instead of driving, no matter what the time of year. However, a recent nationwide report may have you thinking twice before taking that stroll. Pedestrian deaths are on the rise across the nation. In fact, traffic accidents claimed the lives of almost 6,000 pedestrians last year, the highest number of pedestrian deaths in the last 20 years.
So, what's causing this marked increased in pedestrian traffic fatalities? What can you do if you or a loved one suffers injuries while out walking? Perhaps most importantly, is there any way to keep you and your family safe on the streets of New Orleans?
While overall traffic-related fatalities increased 6 percent in 2016, pedestrian deaths nearly doubled that in Louisiana with a jump of 10 percent. Experts believe a number of factors have come together to contribute to this increase, including:
There are other aspects at play here as well, like a stronger economy translating to more cars on the road and lower gas prices, meaning more people driving more often. Couple this with increased numbers of people walking to get healthy or stay fit, and you already have a recipe for a higher number of pedestrian accidents. Researchers believe this is only part of the story, however.
The hazards of distracted driving are already well-documented, with upsetting casualty statistics that demonstrate the dangers of using electronic devices behind the wheel. However, it's not just the drivers who are distracted; the National Safety Council has noted an increase in the number of distracted walking injuries. Pedestrians concentrating on their phones may become oblivious to the traffic hazards around them.
While it's true that individuals who drink and drive present a significant risk to pedestrians – drunk drivers are responsible for 15 percent of fatal pedestrian accidents – a whopping 34 percent of pedestrians killed were intoxicated themselves. While legal, of course, walking home with a blood-alcohol level over the .08 limit for driving can clearly be dangerous, especially for longer distances at night along roadways.
One of the biggest issues when it comes to pedestrian accidents is speeding. While several cities across the country are considering lowering their speed limits to help protect pedestrians, this only helps if the driver is obeying the posted limit and not speeding. The speeding doesn't have to be excessive to be deadly, either; for example, a pedestrian hit by a vehicle traveling at 20 mph has only a 10 percent chance of dying, while for anyone struck at 40 mph, the likelihood of death jumps to 80 percent.
Safety advocates believe that lowering speed limits, increasing the number of sidewalks and improving road design can all go a long way toward helping reduce pedestrian fatalities, and researchers are brainstorming for more ways to make streets safer for anyone crossing. Seventy-two percent of pedestrians killed were crossing the road somewhere other than at an intersection.
In the meantime, you can do your part to decrease your risks by avoiding distractions like cell phone use, and trying to come up with alternatives to walking in the dark - 74 percent of fatal pedestrian accidents occur at night - or when intoxicated. Of course, no matter how careful you are, you may still find yourself seriously injured by an irresponsible or inattentive driver. If such an unfortunate event does occur, there are experienced New Orleans legal professionals who can offer ongoing support and guidance.