American Horror Story star's death spotlights pedestrian crashes
Despite advancing technology that makes cars safer than ever, pedestrian crashes remain elevated, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recorded 4,735 fatalities in 2013, the most recent year data was available. That's a slight decrease compared with 2012, but still 15-percent higher than 2009's record low of 4,109 pedestrian fatalities. Additionally, 66,000 people were injured in car-pedestrian crashes in 2013.
Woolf, who died days after the incident in a Los Angeles hospital, was struck in the head by the SUV's mirror. The driver was not ticketed since Woolf was said to be jaywalking. Police are investigating the situation.
NHTSA said most pedestrian fatalities occur in non-intersections, which appears to lead to more lax prosecution of motorists. In New York City, 95 percent of traffic fatalities do not result in arrests, the New York Daily News reported, and a Salon article this week highlighted that drivers who kill pedestrians haven't been regularly held responsible since the early part of the 20th Century.
Additionally, experts say drivers and pedestrians are more distracted than ever before, as both parties are guilty of using smartphones, closing off the outside world with headphones and in general, not paying attention.
"We're really not seeing the progress that we need to," Kara Macek, communications director for the Governors Highway Safety Association, told Autoblog.
Automakers, including BMW, Volvo, Subaru and Ford, have been working on pedestrian safety for years, though the features can add cost and weight to vehicles. Some are on the road today, like Subaru's pre-collision braking system, which applies the brakes if it detects a crash and the driver hasn't reacted, while others are more futuristic.
Lowering speed limits in congested urban areas – where a high percentage of pedestrians are killed – could also remedy the situation, Macek noted. In New York, cutting the speed limit from 30 miles per hour to 25 mph dropped pedestrian deaths to an all-time low in 2014. The city also upped its enforcement of driving infractions, which appears to have gotten the attention of drivers.
Macek, however, noted that basic education and awareness could help cut down on tragedies.
"The car is always going to win," she said. "It's just a sheer matter of physics."
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