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Drivers Safer on the Roads While Pedestrians Put at Greater Risk

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It may be safer for drivers on the roads, but it isn't safer from pedestrians on the street. According to a recent report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, pedestrian fatalies rose 4.2% in 2010 (compared to 2009) while the percentage of road fatalities fell. Experts aren't sure why more pedestrians are getting injured, but speculate several reasons for the jump.

First, with the construction of more high-speed roads meant to move a large number of drivers on the road, walkers are put at a higher risk of getting hit. This problem is exacerbated by a growing number of people who are trying to get to their destinations by foot, by bike, or by some other method than a car. Second, low-income residents and immigrants are moving to suburban areas and still rely on getting around by foot even though most people living in the suburbs travel by car.

Additional issues contributing to the increase in pedestrian fatalities are very serious and include distracted driving and driving or walking while intoxicated. Unfortunately, experts say there is a lack of good data on the extent of distracted walking but have anecodtal stories that portray the seriousness of the problem. For example, one woman in California was texting while walking across the street, ignored a red light, and was subsequently struck by a car. Furthermore, walking while intoxicated also is a problem; NHTSA data suggest that 35% of pedestrians struck and killed by a vehicle were legally intoxicated in 2009. Similarly, 13% of drivers were intoxicated and both drivers and pedestrians were legally intoxicated in 6% of crashes.