According to a new report from the Governors Highway Safety Association, from 2020 to 2021, Massachusetts saw a 100% increase in pedestrian fatalities. This surge, in many ways attributed to the COVID-19 crisis, is certainly cause for concern.
The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) is a nonprofit organization “representing the state and territorial highway safety offices that implement federal grant programs to address behavioral highway safety issues.” Its vision is to “lead states and territories in moving toward zero deaths on the nation’s roadways through leadership, partnerships and advocacy.”
What Has Caused this Substantial Increase in the Number of Pedestrian Deaths?
As highlighted in GHSA’s new report, during the first six months of 2020, there were 18 pedestrian deaths in Massachusetts. This number significantly increased in 2021. From January 1, 2021, to June 30, 2021, there were 36 pedestrian fatalities. This surge represents a 100% increase in pedestrian deaths.
Massachusetts is not the only state facing this problem. “3,441 pedestrians were killed in collisions with vehicles in the U.S., a 17% increase from 2020,” projects GHSA.
What factors may be responsible for this dramatic influx? GHSA cautions that this figure may only represent a return to pre-pandemic levels of fatalities. As we know, in 2020, road travel was “significantly curtailed” during the height of the pandemic. Fewer cars on the road may explain the decline in pedestrian deaths compared to prior years, like 2019, when Massachusetts saw 32 pedestrian deaths during this same 6-month period. Thus, 2021’s 36 pedestrian fatalities may not be that far from pre-pandemic figures.
On the other hand, we know that across the country, even though fewer commuters were on the road during the height of the pandemic, fatalities did not decrease as experts had hoped. Instead, empty streets encouraged drivers to increase their speeds, resulting in tragic outcomes in many cases.
Other remaining effects of the COVID-19 pandemic may have played a part in the national 17% increase in pedestrian deaths. Traffic specialists and psychologists have pointed to elevated anxiety levels, pandemic drinking, and increased road rage as causes of this increase in fatalities.
How Can Pedestrians and Drivers Avoid Accidents?
Both drivers and pedestrians should take special precautions to prevent fatal accidents.
- Utilize sidewalks whenever possible – If a sidewalk is not available, walk facing traffic and as far away from oncoming vehicles as possible.
- Use crosswalks when available – If possible, use a crosswalk to cross the street. But, if no crosswalk is available, use a well-lit area and wait for a break in traffic before crossing.
- Look both ways before crossing the street – Although this saying may seem juvenile, we often take it for granted. Simply taking the time to look in both directions before crossing the road can save your life.
- Be extra cautious during difficult driving conditions – Ensure you are on high alert for pedestrians at night or when there is bad weather.
- Never drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol – Not only is driving under the influence hugely dangerous to both the driver and pedestrians but drivers found to be under the influence can face hefty fines and even jail time.
- Follow the speed limit – Drivers must follow the speed limit, especially in areas frequented by pedestrians. Be extra cautious in school zones or neighborhoods where children play outside.
Involved in a Pedestrian Accident? Keches Law Group Can Help.
Unfortunately, collisions can still occur regardless of how careful you are.