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Smartphones May Be To Blame For Unprecedented Spike In Pedestrian Deaths, Says Report (cnn.com) 200

According to a report from the Governors Highway Safety Association, the United States saw its largest annual increase in pedestrian fatalities since such record keeping began 40 years ago. "The [association] estimated there were 6,000 pedestrian deaths in 2016, the highest number in more than 20 years," reports CNN. "Since 2010, pedestrian fatalities have grown at four times the rate of overall traffic deaths." From the report: The thing that has changed dramatically in recent years is smartphone use. The volume of wireless data used from 2014 to 2015 more than doubled, according to the Wireless Association. Drivers and pedestrians who are distracted by their smartphones are less likely to be aware of their surroundings, creating the potential for danger. The Governors Highway Safety Association looked at data from the first six months of 2016 that came from 50 state highway safety offices and the District of Columbia. The complete data will be available later this year. The findings come as traffic safety experts have called for totally eliminating deaths on roadways. Near-term solutions include designing roads and vehicles to be safer. Cutting down on speeding and drunk driving are obvious targets.
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Smartphones May Be To Blame For Unprecedented Spike In Pedestrian Deaths, Says Report

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  • Darwin at work (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hoover ( 3292 ) on Friday March 31, 2017 @03:02AM (#54148983)

    Let Darwin do his work... ;-)

    • Re: Darwin at work (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Z00L00K ( 682162 ) on Friday March 31, 2017 @03:11AM (#54149003) Homepage

      As long as it's the victim that's at fault it makes sense.

      But modern cars requires less and less attention to drive which forces the driver to keep the mind occupied on other things to not fall into a vegetative state.

      And cars today also have a lot of touch screens, which also requires the driver to look away from the traffic.

      • by houghi ( 78078 )

        As long as it's the victim that's at fault it makes sense.

        That is not how Darwin works.
        Even if the victims are all innocent, Darwin would still be at work.
        What will happen is that people will be able to jump out of the way extremely fast. Those that can't will die. So in a way traffic rules hold us back.
        I say, remove all these traffic rules and in just a few hundred or a few thousand generations we will have a population that can avoid traffic and enough sex to replace those that don't.

      • As long as it's the victim that's at fault it makes sense.

        Of course, the thing about cellular phones is that their use by either the driver or the pedestrian can lead to an unfortunate vehicular altercation.

        Mobile personal computers aside, there are many forms of distraction... the person in the four thousand pound machine would seem to have the burden of attention placed upon him, fairly or otherwise.

        It's mostly fair, since many drivers eventually become pedestrians.

      • As long as it's the victim that's at fault it makes sense.

        But modern cars requires less and less attention to drive which forces the driver to keep the mind occupied on other things to not fall into a vegetative state.

        Cars still have a steering wheel. And pedals. The last feature that changed those basic pay-attention-dumbass requirements was the advent of cruise control, which came out decades ago, long before the smartphone.

        Drivers today are still obligated to take the same driving test as their parents did, because shit hasn't changed.

        And cars today also have a lot of touch screens, which also requires the driver to look away from the traffic.

        And many of those touchscreen features are disabled when the car is in motion, or are extended with controls that are on the steering wheel, minimizing the risk.

        I think we can dispel

    • by emj ( 15659 )

      The biggest problem is the infrastructure, drivers and cars not pedestrians, so I think you are missing the point completly.

      I've often wondered why people look away from the act of random terror that cars subject us to in everyday life, instead the victims get blamed. At some point you have to understand that cars are a big health problem.

      • I can see the pedestrian traffic fatalitues in germany only slightly increased http://www.bast.de/EN/Publicat... [www.bast.de] granted i do not have the 2016 numbers but this is still below the 2005 numbers.
        • I can see the pedestrian traffic fatalitues in germany only slightly increased http://www.bast.de/EN/Publicat [www.bast.de]... [www.bast.de] granted i do not have the 2016 numbers but this is still below the 2005 numbers.

          On one street, they had two fatalities because pedestrians were using their phone and stepped right into traffic at a red pedestrian traffic light. So they installed red and green LEDs in the ground. Where you can't miss them when you're on your phone and looking in the right direction.

      • That sounds plausible but I'd like to see some research into that. I had a quick look at some traffic statistics but couldn't find anything on pedestrians stepping into traffic whilst looking at their smartphone. Problem is that almost all accidents involving a pedestrian and a motor vehicle are attributed to the driver in the statistics (over here, it's almost always the driver's insurer who pays regardless of who caused the accident).

        One interesting thing I did manage to glean from the statistics is
        • by emj ( 15659 )

          One interesting thing I did manage to glean from the statistics is that fully 1/3rd of all deaths of pedestrians did not involve another party, but were caused by falls or bumping into a stationary object. Numbers for cyclists are about the same. And the vast majority of injuries did not involve another party. Cars are a big health problem but the numbers show a pretty steady overall decline (in terms of accidents as well as emissions, I might add); hopefully cars will drop below clumsiness as a cause of death of pedestrians.

          Emissions is actually getting worse at least if you count from 1970, and death by the emissions from cars is going up. In Sweden are about 300% more people killed by pollution from cars than from actual accidents.

          Not sure what you want stats on, it's pretty hard to use traffic statistics because there are lots of strange pitfalls. E.g. cyclists injured by dooring is counted as a self inflicted injury in some countries.. But yes being injured by infrastrucure and bad maintenance is a real thing, but at leas

        • That sounds plausible but I'd like to see some research into that. I had a quick look at some traffic statistics but couldn't find anything on pedestrians stepping into traffic whilst looking at their smartphone. Problem is that almost all accidents involving a pedestrian and a motor vehicle are attributed to the driver in the statistics (over here, it's almost always the driver's insurer who pays regardless of who caused the accident).

          One incident happened near me recently, a woman on her cell phone stepped off the sidewalk with a truck turning wide and killed her. She evidently did not even look and the driver had to watch his truck rear end with his mirror to make sure it cleared a car in the intersetction. It appears to be primarily her fault as the driver would never expect her to step out in front of him, but the driver has some blame. But we'll never know because everyone gets 'lawyered up' and I assume they settle. So it may never

      • So we should spend millions on childproofing the roads because alleged adults cannot be assed to look left and right before running after some pokemon?

        • by emj ( 15659 )

          So we should spend millions on childproofing the roads because alleged adults cannot be assed to look left and right before running after some pokemon?

          The people who are killed are not the ones using smartphones.

          • Not? So that organ donor that jumped in front of my car because his eyes were glued to the damn smartphone could have killed me while getting away without a scratch if I didn't hit the brakes like there's no tomorrow (and most likely there would not have been one for him)?

            Somehow I doubt it.

            • by emj ( 15659 )

              Not? So that organ donor that jumped in front of my car because his eyes were glued to the damn smartphone

              You must drive really fast if you hit people so hard that their eyes are litereally glued to your smartphone.

            • by Sloppy ( 14984 )

              So that organ donor that jumped in front of my car .. could have killed me while getting away without a scratch..?

              Sorry, I have to reluctantly admit that I don't have a clue. I was in the car next to you, and didn't see a thing. Your traffic incident doesn't sound as interesting as the video I was watching, anyway.

        • So we should spend millions on childproofing the roads because alleged adults cannot be assed to look left and right before running after some pokemon?

          I find these allegations to be seriously overblown. If you look one direction and walk another, you're failing at walking. Unless you have an infirmity which prohibits it, failing at walking is failing at life, because it's literally the primary activity for which we evolved. We're better at it than anything else, which is hard to believe when you see someone trip over a curb because they're answering their gmail.

          I just went to a cheese festival in Petaluma. I have never seen so many adults fail at adulting

    • Maybe also Samsung at work...
    • Let Darwin do his work... ;-)

      Much as I like to sit down at a table at work with six other people who all have their noses buried in their smartphones and annoy them by starting a verbal conversation (and quite a lot of the time they are visibly annoyed at having to take their noses out of their little glowing tablets and talk) I'm also in favour of preventing unnecessary loss of life. To that end kind of liked this idea:

      https://yro.slashdot.org/story... [slashdot.org]

      The cafeteria at one of those ultra cool tech companies where everybody is und

    • by Chas ( 5144 )

      Wish the scoring system went higher than 5.

      Considering the people I've seen walking along with their device out in front of their nose, oblivious to EVERYTHING, stumbling down the street...

      If you're THAT addicted to your device that you completely zone out from reality, yeah, you need to do the gene pool a favor and die off.

    • Let Darwin do his work... ;-)

      Just as wind turbines are selecting for smarter birds.

    • by mjwx ( 966435 )

      Let Darwin do his work... ;-)

      But Darwin works too slowly.

      This may not be solely due to pedestrians not paying attention because they're head is too far buried in their phones. A lot of drivers do the same and are depending on others to avoid the collision. The person who gets hit may not necessarily be the one on the phone.

      Beyond that, there is a cost we all have to bear from preventable deaths, most western countries will shut down roads, have emergency services, A&E triage, medivac choppers all of which have a direct or ind

    • You're assuming that it's the pedestrians who are at fault in not looking where they are going, but it's more likely that it's car drivers using phones and not concentrating on what's happening on the road. Unfortunately, idiots in cars don't tend to die when they make stupid mistakes - it's the people around them.
      • You're assuming that it's the pedestrians who are at fault in not looking where they are going, but it's more likely that it's car drivers using phones and not concentrating on what's happening on the road.

        And of course you have some evidence that "it's moe likely that it's the car drivers"? If so, could you provide it?

        Note that if it's the car drivers, one might expect a similar spike in traffic accidents, which we haven't seen....

        • I don't happen to have any data on that, but if it was the pedestrians at fault, then one might expect a similar spike in sidewalk accidents, which we haven't seen....
        • I've had a quick look at UK (where I live) statistics (e.g. https://www.gov.uk/government/... [www.gov.uk]), but it's not much help as we've had reducing number of pedestrian fatalities since 2004 (excepting 2011 which is blamed on heavy snow).

          As we have plenty of smartphones and plenty of smombies, that indicates that there's something else happening in the U.S. that's increasing fatalities, but it'd be premature to blame smartphones.
    • Ironically they were trying to evolve their Pokemon
    • Is iOS's foundation still called Darwin? If that's the case, it's two Darwins at work for iPhone users!
    • by thomn8r ( 635504 )
      Hello Darwin my old friend...
    • Let Darwin do his work... ;-)

      Well, it's not like we Award this behavior or anything.

      Oh, wait...

    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      I agree. I have been nearly run over by these morons as a _pedestrian_ several times now. People that are incapable to paying attention to direct threats (moving objects that may reasonably be expected to hit them) are not fit to run around on their own.

      And it can get even worse: There was a case in Germany recently, where a railway worker that was distracted by some mobile game killed a lot of people by making two trains collide. This moron gave specially designed "go ahead" signals without making sure (th

    • by jwhyche ( 6192 )

      We call that "thinning the herd."

  • by The Evil Atheist ( 2484676 ) on Friday March 31, 2017 @03:25AM (#54149035) Homepage
    No one died on their smartphones on my street today. Therefore this trend doesn't exist. It is in fact a conspiracy pushed by the chicken little pedestrian lobby in trying to take away my God given right to have a smartphone and be reckless with it.
  • by RotateLeftByte ( 797477 ) on Friday March 31, 2017 @03:40AM (#54149079)

    with headphones, ear buds, air buds and all sorts of other things covering their ears. Not being able to hear what's going on around you is just IMHO silly.
    Will listening the latest bang,bang,boom R&B thing save you from a collision? Not it won't and it may make you more liable to be hit by a vehicle.
    Just you wait, the insurers will raise rates to cover themselves or eve better in their eyes, exclude anyone using a smartphone while walking or listening to tunes.

    • Not being able to hear what's going on around you is just IMHO silly.

      Given the general level of background noise in busy cities, coupled with the fact that most cars made in the past 2 decades are pretty damn quiet when not accelerating (where the highest rate of pedestrian fatalities occur), I highly doubt this makes a difference.

      • Not being able to hear what's going on around you is just IMHO silly.

        Given the general level of background noise in busy cities, coupled with the fact that most cars made in the past 2 decades are pretty damn quiet when not accelerating (where the highest rate of pedestrian fatalities occur), I highly doubt this makes a difference.

        I don't doubt it at all. When I walk with noise-caceling headphones around town I really feel the difference in terms of knowing what's around me. I make a habit of being much more cautious about turning my head fully to look around and checking twice. I would never ride a bicycle with those things. I see others doing it, though.

        • I would never ride a bicycle with those things.

          As someone who cycles everywhere I can categorically tell you (yeah yeah appeal to authority fallacy, anecdote etc) that you don't hear cars until there's bugger all you can do about them unless:
          a) they slow down because they can't pass you.
          b) some raging impatient arsehole feels the need to demonstrate his arseholishness through the use of the horn.

    • by Luthair ( 847766 ) on Friday March 31, 2017 @09:45AM (#54150397)

      I think the biggest issue is that people assume when they have the right of way they don't need to pay attention. Unfortunately there are too many drivers who both don't understand who has the right of way, and others who don't pay attention to anything that isn't another car.

      The safest thing to do is assume everyone else is an idiot, while I always try to exercise my right of way (otherwise it leads to more people assuming others will give way) I'm also watching everyone. e.g. I'm looking out for cars behind me while approaching the intersection.

      As others have pointed out, cars are better and more isolating than ever. When cars were worse drivers needed to slow down more for corners, they didn't accelerate as quickly, etc. There is also more traffic than ever.

  • by sidetrack ( 4550 ) on Friday March 31, 2017 @03:49AM (#54149107) Homepage

    Perhaps more worrying is that people are getting distracted by the smartphones whilst voting, with disastrous consequences.

    • If cars can be self driving. Then voting booths can be self voting. It can't be that difficult to implement.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 31, 2017 @03:55AM (#54149125)

    Article cites 6000 pedestrian deaths in 2016, and calls it a spike, but offers no context of how much of an increase that is.

    Article cites pedestrian death rate has grown 4 times the overall traffic fatality rate, again without citing the base rate of either.

    This could be a huge increase, or hardly any one at all. 100 people per year could have died for first 15 years of the 20 year period, and then spiked up to 6000 in 2016, or, it could have been 5900 per year for first 15 years and slightly increased to 6000 in 2016, both sets probably fit the data, and are enormously different.

    • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

      You're right the article is shit. But I can fill in some of the blanks, at least from here in Canada. Toronto last year saw a 34% increase in the number of pedestrians being hit. [thestar.com] There's fault and issues across the board, but the number of people being hit has increased. Whether it's drivers not signalling, cyclists being aggressive and thinking they're gods unto themselves and cutting off cars, or pedestrians not paying attention(because they've got shit jammed in their ears) and getting smeared by tru

      • by emj ( 15659 )

        the small city I live in had 3 pedestrian hits last year. The pedestrian walked into traffic each time, and weren't paying attention.

        If those numbers are true for a longer period of time the traffic in your city work completly different from any other town I've ever read about, but I guess it could easily happen for 3 cases, if you have really badly streets.

        • Here in las vegas, We had so many people J-Walking and getting hit by vehicles because they would literally walk in front of oncoming traffic, they passed a law stating if youre not in the crosswalk with a walk signal, and you get hit by a car.. as long as the driver is sober it is the pedestrians fault. And to tell you the truth I've come close to running people over on purpose for it. People still walk in front of oncoming traffic. And then they want to yell at you like you shouldnt be driving on the road

        • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

          If those numbers are true for a longer period of time the traffic in your city work completly different from any other town I've ever read about, but I guess it could easily happen for 3 cases, if you have really badly streets.

          It's usually the case of people in downtown getting hit because they're not using crosswalks. The city is mainly laid out that it pushes people to primary 4-lane roadways to travel across the city quickly. While streets with residential areas have more stop signs or RoW/4way yield intersections. With industrial areas always to the outside and new residential developments to the opposite direction but with plenty of road access(again 4lane) to speed traffic. They changed how they laid things out back oh

  • I don't think we needed a scientific report/research to tell us this
  • Growng? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Carewolf ( 581105 )

    Wait Why is the overall rate of traffic deaths _growing_?

    Jesus Christ America, you suck!

  • The Spike in pedestrian deaths makes me think of this [wikimedia.org].
  • by ctrl-alt-canc ( 977108 ) on Friday March 31, 2017 @04:49AM (#54149283)

    Nerd sniping [xkcd.com]. You don't ever need a smartphone!

  • That I get to walk behind some clod looking down at his/her mobile phone. So this study doesn't surprise me. There have been many, many, many times where I've wanted to shout "Put the fucking phone down and walk" But alas I just post about it online.
  • Even if I wanted to read my cheap, crappy phone while walking, sunlight obliterates the screen.
  • Never happened to me, but then Darth Vader taught me to cross the road https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]
  • I don't see a problem. Natural selection doing its thing.

    We should be happy the herd is being culled. When enough people die eventually the remainder will become smart enough to realize they might want to look around when crossing the street.

  • by Qbertino ( 265505 ) <moiraNO@SPAMmodparlor.com> on Friday March 31, 2017 @08:24AM (#54149961)

    I second that.
    Just yesterday I nearly got run over on my bike by some SUV driver who was texting/dialing while driving.
    Smartphones and texting while driving kill people. The problem is so obvious, that carriers had renowned filmmaker Werner Herzog do a freely available documentary on the problem a few years back to keep people from doing this ---> https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

    Watch it and tell your friends to do that too. It's a must.

  • Sure, many people are distracted by what is on their smartphone screens, but what about those listening to music and not paying attention to audio cues that impact their safety, such as the sounds of approaching cars? In some places in the US it is against the law to wear headphones / earbuds while driving. While being a pedestrian, it is not illegal, but it can certainly be dangerous if you can't hear the sound of an approaching car or other danger.
  • (Nod to Larry Niven in Oath of Fealty)
  • Darwinism at its finest!

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