Our View: Care, caution could mean safer roadways

Published 9:19 am Thursday, July 11, 2019

New data from the Governor’s Highway Safety Association has revealed the number of pedestrians killed by motorists is escalating, and quickly.

According to the report, pedestrian deaths increased 51 percent from 2009 to 2018, from 4,109 to 6,227.

This is the second year America has seen an increase in the number of deaths of pedestrians and cyclists.

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Strong Towns, an international movement dedicated to making communities across the United States and Canada financially strong and resilient, recently dug into the report and found a variety of potential causes for the surge in pedestrian deaths.

“There are lots of reasons given for the increase: distracted driving due to smart phone use, a decline in gas prices that has prompted even more driving, poor road design, a culture that privileges car travel and denigrates walking, and the increasing prevalence of more lethal sport utility vehicles,” Strong Town reported.

It’s a strange phenomena considering Americans are walking less than ever before.

It seems America’s roads are becoming safer for those in vehicles, but more dangerous for those who opt to use roadways for walking and biking.

According to the a June 2019 report for the U.S. Department of Transportation and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the number of fatalities in vehicle collisions is declining. A projection of traffic fatalities for 2018 estimates 36,750 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes, according to the report, representing a slight decrease compared to the 37,133 fatalities reported in 2017.

One reason why more pedestrians and cyclists are being killed in accidents could be a recent push from cities to promote communities that are more walkable and bikeable.

That means more pedestrians and cyclists will be out and about, and might be a contributing factor to the increase in these deaths.

While some vehicle accidents that are fatal can’t be avoided, there are certainly precautions many motorists can take to make roadways safer for others.

In Kentucky, there are laws to make traveling safer for pedestrians and cyclists.

Some of the state laws covering pedestrians include:

— When traffic control signals are not in place or in operation the operator of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way, slowing down or stopping if need be to yield, to a pedestrian crossing the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling, or when the pedestrian is approaching so closely from the opposite half of the roadway as to be in danger.

— Whenever any vehicle is stopped at a marked crosswalk or at any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection, to permit a pedestrian to cross the roadway, the operator of any other vehicle approaching from the rear shall not overtake and pass the stopped vehicle.

— Every pedestrian crossing a roadway at a point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles upon the roadway.

— The operator of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian on a sidewalk.

— Notwithstanding other provisions of this subsection or the provisions of any local ordinance, every operator of a vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian and shall give warning by sounding the horn when necessary and shall exercise proper precaution upon observing a child or an obviously confused or incapacitated person upon a roadway.

Bicycles are considered vehicles and can legally be used on most Kentucky roadways. Cyclists can ride to the right of the roadway or even in the lane of traffic if needed.

Motorists are encouraged not to pass cyclists until they can safely do so. The general rule is to leave at least three feet between your vehicle and the cyclist.

Cyclists and pedestrians have a rightful spot on the road and right-of-way.

Cyclists and pedestrians also positively impact the environment by opting to ride and walk rather than drive. 

With some precaution on the part of motorists, but also pedestrians and cyclists, Kentucky’s roadways would be safer and many deaths could be prevented.

Share the road safely. It is the law, after all.