Oct 21 2013
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Study: Pedestrian, Bicyclist Deaths from Distracted Driving Keep Climbing

A large number of bikes parked on a street.

Although the overall traffic death rate is dropping, the number of pedestrians and bicyclists killed by distracted drivers in the United States is climbing, according to a new study in Public Health Reports.

Researchers utilized the Fatality Analysis Reporting System to find crashes on public roads from 2005 to 2010 that led to at least one death, finding that pedestrian deaths jumped to 500 from 347. The number of bicyclist deaths rose to 73 from 56, with a peak of 77 in 2008. They also found that distracted drivers were three times more likely to hit pedestrians on road shoulders and 1.6 times more likely to hit them in marked crosswalks.

“The problem is that pedestrians and cyclists have little protection on the roadways,” said study author Fernando Wilson, PhD, associate professor in the College of Public Health at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, adding, “Evidence suggests that separating non-motorized travel from motorized travel, through bike lanes or other redevelopment efforts, could greatly reduce deaths.”

The study’s authors concluded that new and better policies are needed to stop this growing public health problem. They hope that the findings—particularly the demographic findings—can help advocates and policymakers determine exactly what these policies should be.

For example, the pedestrian victims are more likely to be:

  • Women
  • Older than 65
  • Physically impaired
  • On the road shoulder
  • Hit during the day

Bicyclist victims are more likely to be:

  • Women
  • White
  • Riding in the morning
  • On the road shoulder
  • In a rural area

The study was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Public Health Law Research program.

Tags: Built Environment and Health, Transportation