When it comes to traffic safety, “man versus machine” is not an inspiring story. If a ton or more of metal traveling at high speed collides with a person, the person nearly always loses the match-up. That’s one of the reasons why car crashes rank among the leading causes of death in the United States.
Speed plays a big role in determining the risk of severe injury or death when a car hits a pedestrian. A recent AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study showed that the risk of a person dying from being hit by a car increases from 10 percent when the car is going 23 mph to 90 percent when the car is going 58 mph.
Injury rates are on a similar curve: A pedestrian hit by a car moving at 16 mph has about a 10 percent chance of being injured; this increases to 90 percent when a car is going 46 mph.
The AAA Foundation and its partners want to see those injury and fatality rates decline, reflecting a safer environment for all road users. As a society, we can make that happen by reducing the risks of crashes occurring and reducing the risk of severe or fatal outcomes when crashes do take place.
Reducing speeds, especially in areas with a lot of pedestrian traffic, is a high priority. Road designs that incorporate traffic calming, such as speed bumps, narrow lanes, and bends that force cars to slow down can all be effective tools.
Features that keep cars and pedestrians apart, from sidewalks to pedestrian walkways, also help avoid crashes. Traffic signals timed with pedestrians in mind can reduce encounters between vehicles and pedestrians, too.
But, as always, the fastest and easiest way to reduce crashes lies with you. When you’re behind the wheel, share the road with pedestrians, cyclists, and other road users. Slow down in areas where you know you may encounter pedestrians, including around schools, shopping centers, and offices. And, pay attention. In the second or two you look away to change the radio station or reset the GPS, a pedestrian can dart into the street in front of you with no warning.
When you’re a pedestrian, stay off the road when possible and monitor the traffic around you, so you can assess the risks you face. Never assume that just because you can see vehicles they can see you.
When traffic safety becomes a priority that everyone in our society values and pursues, all road users win. And that’s a very inspiring story.
For more information on how you can become a safer road user, visit www.aaafoundation.org.