New Yorkers are used to seeing a lot of pedestrians, whether during trips to the city or just driving around towns like White Plains. Down there, it is people walking to and from the office, getting a meal or going about their lives. Up here, it is people exercising, walking their dogs, doing errands, or going about their business.

It is good to walk, but there is a disturbing trend in the number of pedestrian fatalities taking place on U.S. roads. While the number of deaths involving passengers and drivers of vehicles remains steady in recent years, the number of pedestrian deaths reached a 30 year high in 2019. The numbers are not final, but The Governors Highway Safety Association crunched state and federal numbers and estimated that there were 6,590 pedestrian deaths last year with a 5% increase over 2018. New York State had a 9% increase, going from 224 to 240 deaths.

Why the rise in deaths?

These numbers have caused alarm among safety experts as well as officials, but the causes for the jump will be no surprise:

  • Distracted driver rates have skyrocketed thanks to cellphone use and texting.
  • There is an 81% rise in the number of SUVs, whose size and height make them harder to maneuver and more lethal to pedestrians struck by them.
  • There were higher rates of intoxication for both pedestrians and drivers.
  • While this is changing, road design in recent decades favored traffic flow over pedestrian safety.

Pedestrians need to take greater care

The rise of distracted driving has meant drivers simply do not see pedestrians because they are looking at their devices. The distractions may also be the amount of information provided to the driver due to complex entertainment systems, onboard navigation and countless other gadgets and amenities. There is increased sensor technology for detecting objects, people or vehicles in the path of a vehicle, but the drivers still need to be vigilant.

Families can take action

The number of fatalities is up, but there is little comfort in knowing that a loved one was killed due to trends in reckless driving. Families may wish to hold drivers accountable by filing a wrongful death suit against the driver or other responsible parties, including municipalities with poorly lit, marked or designed roads. Those who want to learn more can speak with a personal injury attorney with experience handling cases involving motor vehicle crashes.