BOISE, Idaho — AAA is reporting an alarming rise in pedestrians being hit and killed by cars in the United States over the last decade.
Pedestrian deaths rose from 4,100 in 2009 to almost 6,300 in 2018, a 53% increase. Idaho numbers have followed the same upward trajectory, increasing by 70% in the same time span. Ten Idahoans died from being struck by a vehicle in 2009, while 17 were killed the same way in 2018.
Those numbers appear to have trended downward slightly in 2019 and 2020, according to AAA, but the organization remains concerned.
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"With more people walking for exercise or to get to work or school during the pandemic, we all need to do our part to protect pedestrians," says AAA Idaho public affairs director Matthew Conde. "We've got to keep things moving in the right direction."
The number of people between the ages of 60 and 69 hit and killed by cars more than doubled nationally during the years studied. Pedestrian deaths in rural areas have remained steady, with fatal collisions on busier urban roads appearing to contribute more to the rising death toll.
"The number of pedestrians who were fatally struck while walking along the roadway more than doubled, which dispels the notion that the only risk is to people who are crossing the street," Conde said. "In addition, the number of vehicles 15 years old or older that were involved in fatal pedestrian crashes nearly tripled, so that really emphasizes the importance of staying up on routine maintenance to keep safety equipment like brakes, headlights and tires in good working order."
AAA recommends pedestrians aid in their own safety by wearing bright or reflective clothing and walking toward oncoming traffic, avoiding headphones or other distractions, following traffic rules and using marked crosswalks where available, and making eye contact with drivers, rather than assuming they will stop, even if you have the right of way.
Drivers are urged to follow traffic laws and speed limits, slow down when approaching crosswalks and get rid of distractions while driving. AAA also reminded drivers never to pass a vehicle that stopped at a crosswalk, as they may be waiting for someone to walk out into the road.
Staying alert, particularly when it is dark or the weather is bad, is also crucial.
"Drivers and pedestrians also need to stay sober," Conde said. "Impaired judgment leads to risk-taking and poor reaction time, and that's a recipe for disaster, particularly when a motor vehicle is involved."
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