In the past two weeks, less than two miles apart, two separate car crashes involving pedestrians occurred in Phoenix, Arizona. Tragically, both pedestrians involved in these accidents died as a result of their injuries.
On January 29, 2022, Anthony Vasquez was hit and killed by a vehicle near 49th Street and Indian School Road. Vasquez was just 27 years old.
On February 5, 2022, Rosa Mroz was hit and killed near 56th Street and Camelback Road. Mroz was a Maricopa County Superior Court judge. Our legal community was dealt a great loss with her passing.
Although the facts of these fatalities may differ, what connects them, along with the thousands of other fatalities that occur nationwide, is that they both involved vehicles hitting pedestrians.
Pedestrian Fatalities Soared During the Pandemic
According to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), pedestrian deaths soared in 2020. While people drove 13% fewer miles in 2020, due to the pandemic, pedestrian deaths increased nearly 5%. In effect, on a per-mile basis, pedestrian fatalities increased 21%.
GHSA reports that the “likely culprits are dangerous driving — like speeding, drunk and drugged driving, and distraction.”
What changed in 2020? Several theories are circulating in the news.
According to one, the uncertainty of the pandemic made U.S. drivers more reckless. Americans felt isolated, lonely, and depressed, leading to unsafe driving behaviors.
Another theory claims that, with fewer people needing to commute to and from work, there are more pedestrians on our roadways taking morning walks and evening jogs — enjoying fresh air and good, old-fashioned on-foot mobility.
Perhaps there is truth in both appraisals. Either way, we’re now witnessing a struggle between roadways built for vehicular travel and pedestrians who are using those same roadways as the best way to get from point A to point B.
Stopping Pedestrian Fatalities
So, then, what can we do about the problem of pedestrian fatalities?
The answer seems like less of a theory and more of a practical application. It all goes back to driver’s education. (See U.S. Rules of the Road, an excellent guide for beginning drivers, as well as the grounds for a refresher course, for those who are experienced.)
Remember the following:
- Drivers must ALWAYS yield to pedestrians.
- Drivers must come to a complete stop whenever they see pedestrians trying to cross the street.
- Drive cautiously and keep your eyes up at all times.
- Pedestrians should not trust that a vehicle is going to see them or stop for them.
- Pedestrians should be on a continual lookout for vehicles, even at marked intersections, and avoid crossing roadways mid-block when possible or practical.
Cities also should be notified of road hazards. Municipalities, too, have an obligation to be continually evaluating areas where pedestrian and vehicle interactions are high.
If there’s a potential traffic issue where you live, let your local traffic authority know. Your local traffic engineers will probably appreciate your feedback.
Just because there isn’t a crosswalk doesn’t mean the city shouldn’t put one there. Conversely, just because there is a crosswalk, it doesn’t mean that it has an effective application, without better safety standards in place.
Ultimately, it is up to all of us to slow down and pay better attention. Share roadways to ensure that we all get where we need to go safely and soundly. You may be a driver today and a pedestrian tomorrow. Try to see the road from both points of view.