When cars collide on Trenton streets, the damage is done to people and vehicles in a moment of violent impact. Afterward, witnesses will often rush to check on drivers and passengers, and call police. Within minutes, a crash site can be populated with police officers, EMTs, firefighters, witnesses, vehicle occupants and others.
Unfortunately, those who are at crash sites are themselves in danger of being injured or killed in auto accidents. A new study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found that from 2016 to 2018, hundreds of people were killed and thousands more injured each year in crashes involving disabled vehicles.
A problem that needs attention
David Zuby, executive vice president and chief IIHS research officer said the “study identifies a part of the road safety equation that doesn’t get much attention, despite the size of the problem.”
Researchers found that an estimated average of 566 people were killed and 14,371 injured in each year of the study. They also found that a significant percentage of the victims were pedestrians who were either leaving a disabled vehicle, returning to or working on a disabled vehicle.
More troubling statistics
Three hundred pedestrians per year were killed in these low-visibility disabled vehicle crashes – a figure that’s grown 27 percent since 2014. And nearly 20 percent of the serious injuries sustained in the wrecks were to pedestrians as well.
These troubling figures arrive when pedestrian injuries and fatalities are soaring across the nation. Last month, the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) reported that there were 6,721 pedestrian deaths in the U.S., a 4.8 percent increase from 2019.
That surge in fatal pedestrian accidents – the largest year-over-year increase ever recorded –occurred though traffic levels were down by 13.2 percent in 2020.
The pedestrian fatality rate (determined by the number of fatalities per vehicle mile driven) rose 21 percent last year – the biggest ever annual increase in the pedestrian fatality rate.
Let’s not jump to the conclusion that 2020 is the source of all these disturbing numbers. In fact, it’s a long-term trend: over the past decade, pedestrian fatalities have jumped 46 percent. Fatalities in all other auto accidents rose 5 percent during that time.
Tackling the problem
The IIHS says it recommends a multipronged approach to make America safer for pedestrians, including:
- Construct more roundabouts
- Install more red-light cameras
- Build more pedestrian refuge medians
- Improve street lighting, especially at intersections
In addition, the organization urges automakers to make automatic emergency braking systems that can detect pedestrians standard equipment on all passenger vehicles. The IIHS also recommends redesigns of many large vehicles: lowering their hoods and reducing vehicle weight, to make big SUVs and pick-up trucks less lethal to those traveling on foot.
Together, these measures would help make our streets safer for those walking or riding bicycles.