Road Kill

A report released last month by the Governors Highway Safety Association shows that the number of pedestrians killed in traffic jumped eleven percent last year, to nearly 6,000, the largest single-year increase in pedestrian fatalities ever, and the highest number in more than two decades.

And this wasn’t just because the number of traffic deaths went up due to increased driving. While overall traffic deaths increased six percent in 2016, reversing slightly a ten year decline, pedestrian deaths increased by nearly 12%. But it wasn’t just in those two years. Since 2006, pedestrian deaths have increased from 11% of all traffic fatalities in 2006 to over 15% in 2016, an increase of 25%. The increase in pedestrian deaths over the past decade occurred at time when total traffic deaths dropped by almost 17%. According to a number of sources, the greatest component of this increase is distracted walking.

Over the past year or so, I’ve occasionally commented on the increasing functional stupidity of students and others who blithely cross streets, their heads in their cell phones, not paying attention to traffic or much else. Well… now there’s some evidence that there is a cost to such stupidity, and that those who engage in it are candidates for the Darwin Awards, whose not-quite-tongue-in-cheek criterion for receiving the award states, “In the spirit of Charles Darwin, the Darwin Awards commemorate individuals who protect our gene pool by making the ultimate sacrifice of their own lives. Darwin Award winners eliminate themselves in an extraordinarily idiotic manner, thereby improving our species’ chances of long-term survival.”

Lack of intelligence around moving vehicles isn’t, unhappily, confined to homo sapiens, as a recent report in Royal Society Open Science confirms, by noting that the highest percentage of birds killed by moving vehicles were those with the smallest brains relative to their overall size.

In short, small brains makes it more likely that birds will die as road kill.

I have to wonder if we’d find the same thing if we looked at pedestrian traffic deaths.

9 thoughts on “Road Kill”

  1. RRRea says:

    From someone who walks long distances frequently and is not distracted. There’s definitely another side to this. Distracted DRIVERS. Since we’re an automobile society, many/most drivers don’t even consider pedestrians when taking such actions as turning right on a red light -frequently without stopping and plowing right through a crosswalk where the pedestrians not only have the right-of-way, but also have the go-ahead from the pedestrian crossing signal. This happens on a near daily basis. It’s another example of “little mindedness”. Most Americans NEVER walk any appreciable distance, therefore the idea that there are people walking (who, of course, should be driving just like them) is foreign territory. They don’t look for pedestrians (or bikers) because, to their minds, that’s not how people (meaning themselves but extrapolated outwards blindly) get around. You can see it in the blank, bewildered expressions on their faces each and every time.

    1. I walk several miles most mornings, and I’ve lost count of the number of times I could have been hit by a distracted/texting driver if I hadn’t been watching, knowing how often it happens.

      1. JM says:

        I nearly got hit while walking across campus a few weeks ago. Apparently the driver thought that once it was dark out students stop roaming campus.

        I gave him a very dumb look and went to class.

        On a similar note 2 months back one of my fraternity brothers got hit by a pickup truck while ON the sidewalk. Granted he was walking across an entrance to a local bagel shop but regardless the shop is on campus and this happened during the day.

        He got some bruises but was otherwise fine.

        So yes, there are distracted pedestrians. I’m putting more of the blame on the drivers though. Kinda of in the sense that a car is basically a 1ton+ bullet.
        How careless are you with your firearms?

        Psudo rant done.

  2. Matthew Hargraves says:

    This would be why I’m getting self driving cars as soon as possible.

    1. R. Hamilton says:

      One article pointed out that in a no-win situation, a self-driving car might sacrifice its occupants to protect a larger number of people elsewhere (whether in other vehicles, or pedestrians, or whatever). Most people might prefer to be consulted before such a sacrifice is made for them.

      1. Derek says:

        Ejection seats it is…

  3. JakeB says:

    I thought a funny element of the reports was that up to 1/3 of the pedestrian deaths occurred when the pedestrian was intoxicated . . . of course, drunk texting is also a bad idea, so texting while walking while drunk becomes a perfect storm of bad ideas.

  4. cat says:

    Hi… got here via Sage’s blog … interesting article … but it’s not just driver versus walker … it’s also walker (texting/ talking or what ever) versus walker just walking and maybe just maybe seeking eye contact and wishing texting/ talking into that thing walker a good morning … o homo sapiens … i’m on the verge of giving up on you … anyway, got to tend to my cat now … and when he purrs he purrs … smiles … Love, cat.

  5. David Sims says:

    You might indeed discover that small brains and pedestrian highway deaths are linked. I don’t know whether there are any statistics by which you can check. But there might exist statistics that break down pedestrian deaths by city, and you can mine those cities’ demographic data for details about their inhabitants. I did this in the 1990s with regard to the per capita rate for murder and found a link between how often murder happens with RACE! (Of all things! Who would have guessed?)

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