Even while we deal with a pandemic, it’s important not to forget about the other epidemic problems plaguing the U.S. Pedestrian accidents are one of these problems.
According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC):
In 2017, 5,977 pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes in the United States. That’s about one death every 88 minutes. Additionally, an estimated 137,000 pedestrians were treated in emergency departments for nonfatal crash-related injuries in 2017.
In fact, nationally, pedestrians are 1.5 times more likely than passenger vehicle occupants to be killed in a car crash. In 2018, the pedestrian death rate jumped by 3 percent to the highest number of deaths since 1990.
Here in Colorado, the numbers are even worse.
Pedestrian deaths are up 75% in Colorado compared to a decade ago according to the Colorado Department of Transportation. Without question, one of the main causes of rising pedestrian injuries and fatalities in this state is the rapidly rising population and lack of infrastructure to keep up with the growth.
In light of this problem, we here at The Babcock Law Firm wanted to shed light on this important topic by asking college students for creative solutions and ideas. For the second year, we sponsored a private scholarship essay contest prompting students to address the issue of pedestrian safety.
While it was difficult to choose a winner from the more than 70 submissions we received, we ultimately selected Lora Haas as the winner of our $1,500 scholarship.
Lora Haas is a graduate of the University of Georgia and a law school student at Georgia State University. Aside from having a passion for the field of environmental law and the natural world, she clearly has a knack for making compelling arguments—which will serve her well in law school.
Congrats Lora on your scholarship, and thanks to everyone who participated!
Here’s her essay:
Essay question: How can a state with a rapidly rising population manage to decrease the rate of pedestrian accidents and fatalities?
While there are many benefits to a growing community, there are also drawbacks that aren’t as obvious – It’s an unfortunate reality that pedestrian-involved collisions are a leading contributor to roadway fatality statistics. These incidents are an issue in every growing community and, as populations continue to increase, measures must be taken to ensure the safety of pedestrians and drivers. Changes may take the form of new signage, additional access points for pedestrians, or updated traffic laws. These updates are necessary to reflect new population sizes and decrease the likelihood of accidents. If roadways and pedestrian behaviors remain the same while communities experience an influx of both vehicle and foot traffic, collisions are inevitable.
There are several factors that influence the likelihood of accidents involving pedestrians: exposure, congestion of roadways, demographics, and “risky” driving behaviors (Green). The level of exposure is simply the likelihood of accident occurrence – as populations grow, they experience higher levels of exposure. There are two factors of exposure that increase in these areas: 1. More vehicles on the roads and 2. A higher number of pedestrians (Green). Many communities that experience rapid growth don’t have appropriate infrastructure or public transit systems in place that are equipped to handle larger populations. When these systems aren’t properly implemented, the alternatives lead to heavy congestion of roadways. Concerning demographics, children are at the highest risk of being involved in an accident (Kendrick). Members of every demographic are guilty of distracted driving, but younger drivers are often responsible for pedestrian-related incidents (Galbiscek). Accidents are especially rampant in communities with high populations of individuals who are likely to partake in risky behavior. For example, accidents are common in college towns that boast a large population of younger drivers (Babcock Law Firm).
In order to combat the negative side-effects of a booming population, community leaders must collaborate with one another to make roads safer. In especially congested areas, the effectiveness of current posted speed limits should be considered. It may also be prudent of lawmakers to recommend revising traffic laws to reflect the changes in traffic patterns. The installation of clearly labeled signage for both pedestrians and vehicles will bring awareness to traffic laws and encourage safe behavior. A sufficient number of access points for pedestrians should be included to provide more options for pedestrians who cross busy roads. Additionally, sidewalks and other walking areas should be placed along roadways when possible. Special attention should be paid to areas where those most susceptible to accidents are expected to be present, such as roads near schools. Pedestrian behavior is a leading cause of these accidents. Examples of these behaviors include public intoxication, jaywalking, and being active at night while wearing dark clothing (Green). Because of this, campaigns should be developed to bring awareness to these dangers, encouraging smarter decision-making in pedestrian groups. Finally, a concerted effort should be made to ensure that appropriate actions are made against guilty parties when accidents do occur. These consequences should be highlighted to prevent future accidents and raise awareness of this growing problem in rapidly developing areas.
Babcock Law Firm. 2020. “Pedestrian Accidents.” The Babcock Law Firm LLC, https://www.injurylawcolorado.com/practice-pedestrian-accidents.html
Galbicsek, C. 2020 “Drinking and Driving (DUI).” Alcohol Rehab Guide, https://www.alcoholrehabguide.org/alcohol/crimes/dui/
Green, M. 2013. “Why Are Pedestrian Fatalities on the Rise?” Human Factors, https://www.visualexpert.com/Resources/whysomany.html
Kendrick, D. 1993. “Prevention of Pedestrian Accidents.” Archives of Disease in Childhood, Vol 68: 669-672.
About the Author
Lora Haas graduated from the University of Georgia with a Bachelor of Science in Wildlife Biology. She is attending law school at Georgia State University. She hopes to work in the field of environmental law, serving as an advocate for the natural world while facilitating a healthy relationship between industry, government, and the environment. Outside of school, she enjoys spending time outdoors. Lora looks forward to combining her professional and personal interests as she embarks on her legal career.
Congratulations Lora, and good luck in law school. Keep up the great work!
In addition to Lora’s winning submission, we received many other interesting and insightful submissions. Be sure to come back and visit our blog soon for a follow-up blog post where we’ll feature some of our “runner-up” favorite submissions. Thank you to all who applied!
Don’t forget to visit our Scholarship page soon for our next essay contest.
And in case you missed it, don’t forget to check out our previous winning entry to see what we’re looking for and to read Roger’s essay: Essay contest 1: Tell us about your first job. What was the best part? The worst part?