Houston Matters

Texas Had The Third Highest Number Of Pedestrian Traffic Fatalities In 2018

The report’s author cites distracted drivers and the increase of SUVs as potential factors.

Traffic moves through the intersection at Wilcrest and Westheimer. A report about pedestrian traffic fatalities that analyzed data from January to June of 2018 ranked Texas in third place.

Texas ranks third in a report about pedestrian traffic fatalities that analyzed data from January to June of 2018. The study was done by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), which used preliminary data from the State Highway Safety Offices.

Richard Retting, a researcher with the GHSA and author of the report, told Houston Matters on Thursday that the report projects 6,227 pedestrian fatalities occurred in the United States during the first six months of 2018. In an interview with Houston Matters Host Craig Cohen, Retting noted that’s the highest number of pedestrian fatalities in nearly three decades.

From January to June of 2017, there were 266 pedestrian fatalities in Texas. That figure went up to 298 during the first six months of 2018, a 12 percent increase.

Only California, with 432 pedestrian fatalities registered during the analyzed time frame, and Florida, with 330, rank higher than Texas in the report.

No definitive answers

Retting said there are no definitive answers to explain the increase nationwide and in Texas, but there are some theories. One of them is that drivers are more distracted because they are using mobile devices in their vehicles.  “There’s hardly a car that I see that doesn’t have a driver with a device mounted on the dashboard or on the windshield,” Retting said.

Retting also pointed to an increase in the number of SUVs and light trucks sold in the U.S. over the last decade. “Because SUVs can do more harm, even at a low speed crash than a car, that could be a factor as well,” he said. Retting said research indicates the number of pedestrians killed by SUVs increased by about 50 percent from 2013 to 2017. 

Growth in the Houston region, Retting added, is pushing development on the suburbs “and areas where pedestrians are not necessarily expected by drivers, and roads are not necessarily well designed to protect pedestrians.”

Potential measures

Retting said measures to curb fatal pedestrian accidents include improving street lighting and making pedestrian detection and crash avoidance features in cars more affordable or even standard equipment.

Jonathan Brooks, Director of Policy and Planning with LINK Houston, was also on Houston Matters to discuss the situation in the Bayou City. He noted that statewide 1.04 pedestrians per 100,000 people were killed in the first half of 2018. But in Houston, 2.73 pedestrians per 100,000 people were killed, according to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT).

Brooks also pointed out that at the national level 35 percent of pedestrian fatalities occurred away from intersections in 2018. In Houston, that same figure was about 53 percent, also according to TxDOT.

One of the problems Houston pedestrians face is a variety of risks, and no specific focal points where they should be more alert, according to Brooks. “Every community in the city of Houston experiences crashes involving someone walking,” he said.

Brooks also addressed the distraction factor, and added it’s not just a problem for drivers, pointing out pedestrians can be distracted while walking. “You have to be very proactive in Houston to ensure your safety and be very vigilant, make eye contact with a vehicle that you believe is seeing you,” he emphasized.

You can read the GHSA’s report here:

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Alvaro ‘Al’ Ortiz

Alvaro ‘Al’ Ortiz

General Assignment Reporter

Alvaro 'Al' Ortiz is originally from Spain. He worked for several years in his home country and gained experience in all platforms of journalism, from wire services to print, as well as broadcast news and digital reporting. In 2001, Al came to the United States to pursue a Master's degree...

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