People in the U.S. are constantly being encouraged to walk or bike more -- both for the fitness benefits and to lower their carbon footprint.
But walking and biking isn't just inconvenient, it can be downright dangerous. Traffic fatalities hit a seven-year high in 2015, and pedestrians and cyclists account for a disproportionate share of the increase. Ten percent more pedestrians were killed in 2015 than in 2014, and cyclists fared even worse -- they saw an increase in fatalities by 13 percent in the same year's time.
Theories abound as to why there's been such an uptick in the number of deaths among pedestrians and cyclists when there hasn't been an equal increase in the number of drivers. Some of the more popular theories include
-- An increase in the numbers of bikers and walkers overall
-- More inexperienced drivers, like teenagers, on the road thanks to lower overall gas prices
-- Cityscapes that aren't designed with walkers or cyclists in mind, with poorly designed sidewalks and bike lanes that don't properly connect or abruptly end
-- Badly designed lighting systems that make walking at night even more hazardous than it is in the daytime
-- Drivers who are increasingly distracted by everything from their Pokemon Go apps to their GPS devices
Naturally, there's also a tendency to throw the blame toward the walker or cyclist, as well. Car drivers often resent cyclists, in particular, because they feel they are out of place on the nation's roads and create unnecessary hazards. Walkers are blamed for "distracted walking" as much as vehicle drivers are blamed for distracted driving, especially if they're listening to their MP3 players or playing with the apps on their phone while they're in motion.
Whatever the reason (or reasons), the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has taken notice and is trying to find ways to counter the trend, but it's likely to be a complex effort with no easy answer.
In the meantime, if you or a loved one are injured in a pedestrian or cycling accident, it's important to understand your rights. You may be eligible for compensation if you've been injured by a negligent driver. Please check our page for more information.