Last month, the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) issued an alarming report that suggested a connection between the rise in traffic crash-related pedestrian deaths and smartphone and marijuana use. Is there a connection?
According to the report, pedestrian fatalities totaled about 6,000 in 2017. That’s roughly the same as 2016, when 5,987 pedestrians died in traffic collisions.
The report points out that the rise in pedestrian deaths parallels smartphone use. According to Pew Research Center, the percentage of Americans that use a smartphone has increased from 35% in 2011 to 77% in 2016. Walk down any city street, and you’ll see more people on their phones than not.
Meanwhile, the number of traffic crash-related pedestrian fatalities rose 46 percent from 2009 to 2016, from 4,009 to 5,987. It’s a double-whammy sort of problem. Distracted driving accounted for 3,477 traffic fatalities in 2015, about 10 percent of all motor vehicle deaths according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At the same time, pedestrians engrossed in their phones aren’t aware of their surroundings, which makes them more vulnerable to car collisions.
The GHSA report also alluded to a connection between recreational marijuana use and pedestrian fatalities; however, more data is needed to make a firm conclusion.
The report indicated an increase in pedestrian fatalities in states that legalized recreational marijuana. Those states are more populous, which means they’ll have higher rates of all types of collisions compared to a lesser-populated state.
Washington Traffic Safety Commission issued a report on the involvement of marijuana in fatal crashes between 2010 and 2014. After analyzing the number of drivers involved in fatal crashes that tested positive for alcohol and/or marijuana, the report found insufficient evidence of a link between marijuana and traffic fatalities.
“The observations described in this report are insufficient for determining the link between THC and crash risk,” the report states.
What you can do
With the increase in distracted driving and, really, distracted living, you need to take extra precautions when driving, walking or cycling. As a pedestrian, use the crosswalk, but don’t assume cars will stop for you. Pay attention. That means keep your eyes on your surroundings, not on your phone.
When you’re driving, remove any distractions. Put your phone away (whatever it is can wait). Save the cheeseburger for later. Put on mascara before you leave the house. Focus on driving when you’re driving. Even taking your eyes off the road for a few seconds is long enough to cause a crash, even a fatality. Is that text really worth it?
Photo by Ed Yourdon