Though the pandemic has decreased traffic levels across New Jersey, there continue to be violent collisions between vehicles and people on foot, often with tragic results.
If you drive just a few miles northeast of Lawnside, you will arrive in Mount Laurel, where a few days ago, a pedestrian was struck and killed. A few miles further northeast, a 60-year-old Plainsboro woman in a crosswalk was struck by a car. She died later at a nearby hospital.
Even further northeast, a 21-year-old Elizabeth woman was struck by a box truck and later died of her injuries. A news report stated that homicide detectives are investigating the fatal pedestrian accident.
This grim string of tragedies is a clear illustration of the pedestrian safety issues we face not only in New Jersey but across the nation.
One might well think that federal regulators would be looking for ways to address this growing problem, but that’s unfortunately not the case. Even though the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has researched pedestrian safety and developed processes with which to test and measure new vehicles for pedestrian safety, the federal agency has so far declined to incorporate pedestrian safety into its vehicle safety standards.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) is urging the NHTSA to act. The GAO notes that the problem is dire. In 2018, an average of 17 pedestrians were struck and killed every day – up 43 percent from 2008.
Experts say the rapid rise in fatalities in pedestrian-vehicle collisions is due to several factors, including a surge in distracted driving. The phones we carry and the in-dash infotainment systems in vehicles provide an array of digital temptations that divert driver attention from other vehicles, traffic signals and people on foot and on bicycles.
Another factor in the increased fatality rate is the increasing size and weight of American vehicles. The most popular vehicles are now SUVs and pick-up trucks, both of which can weigh thousands of pounds more than passenger cars.
Because SUVs and pick-ups sit higher than cars, when they collide with a pedestrian, the damage is often to the person’s head and neck rather than their legs or torso.
Let’s hope that regulators finally factor pedestrians into vehicle safety standards, just as other advanced nations have been doing for years.