Good job, Washington DC drivers: 2016 saw 57 percent fewer pedestrian traffic fatalities than 2015!A new study put out by the Governor's Highway Safety Association (GHSA) saw that on average, year-over-year pedestrian fatalities in the United States increased in 2016. The study shows that 34 states experienced pedestrian traffic fatality increases, while Washington DC and 15 other states saw fewer pedestrian traffic deaths. Overall, the United States saw an 11 percent increase, which was the largest uptick recorded in the past 40 years. In 2015, the District of Columbia had seven pedestrian traffic fatalities. In 2016, the GHSA estimates that that number fell to three. The study points to factors such as increased driving and lower fuel prices as likely contributing to the national increase in pedestrian fatalities. Smartphone usage is also pegged as a likely cause for distracting motorists and pedestrians alike.
The study also highlights alcohol's role in these statistics. At least 34 percent of pedestrians and 15 percent of drivers involved in fatal accidents were found to be intoxicated at the time. Though, drinking habits haven't significantly changed so alcohol is unlike to explain the year-over-year increase. Delaware, Florida and Arizona had the highest rates of pedestrian deaths relative to their populations, while North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming had the lowest. Not surprisingly, the problem is greatest in large-population states that have urban centers that promote walking, which makes DC's decrease that much more interesting. Washington DC's statistically significant decrease in pedestrian fatalities is linked to a number of District-wide efforts, including regional outreach and increased enforcement, deploying rapid flash beacons at intersections, reviewing intersection data to identify critical areas in need of safety improvements, and making high-use streets more pedestrian-friendly. Only time will tell whether Washington DC's pedestrian fatality decrease is a trend. Still, in a country where pedestrian-involved traffic accidents are at a high and pedestrian deaths now outpace motorist fatalities, DC's progress is welcome news.