| March 30
March 30 U.S. pedestrian deaths rose sharply for
the second year in a row in 2016, according to a study released
on Thursday, a trend experts said mirrors increased driver
cellphone use and distracted driving.
Last year saw an 11 percent rise in pedestrian deaths over
2015, making it the largest increase in the 40 years that
national records have been kept, according to officials with the
Governors Highway Safety Association, which represents state
highway safety offices and commissioned the research.
This followed a 9.5 percent increase in 2015.
The study's author, Richard Retting, called the results
“frankly quite startling,” adding that “there’s clearly
something happening. This is not a one-off.”
Retting said that he viewed the surge as largely
attributable to cellphone use, saying that while it was
statistically difficult to rule out other causes entirely, the
coinciding rise in deaths and cellphone use suggests a
None of the other factors typically affecting pedestrian
deaths - such as population growth, yearly miles driven and
walked in the United States - tracked the rise as closely as
Retting said wireless data use on cellphones has shot up
dramatically, with 2014-15, the most recent period for which
numbers are available, seeing a doubling of the amount of mobile
data used in the United States and a 45 percent increase in the
number of multimedia messages sent.
A 2016 U.S. Department of Transportation study showed that,
while overall numbers for cellphone use in 2014 and 2015
remained relatively flat, the rate of drivers holding up phones
and using their hands to manipulate them had more than doubled
since 2009, and among the youngest drivers had more than
The replacement of flip phones by smartphones has also
increased the risk, said Charlie Klauer, a lead researcher at
the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.
“Smartphones are much much harder to use ... and they are
far more capable,” Klauer said. “Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook:
All of it makes them very dangerous.”
Distracted drivers can also be difficult to catch. While 14
states ban all handheld cellphone use while driving, 32 only
prohibit texting, forcing officers to prove drivers seen holding
or touching phones were not doing something else, said Kara
Macek, a spokeswoman for the governor’s association.
Results among states were mixed in the survey. While 34 saw
an increase, 15 states and the District of Columbia saw
decreases, and Maine saw no change.
(Reporting by Tom James in Seattle; editing by Patrick Enright
and Cynthia Osterman)