Editorial: Step out with care

Whether you are out shopping, running errands or walking for exercise, there is a warning that can’t be overemphasized: Watch out!

More than 1,100 pedestrians are hit by cars on Connecticut roads each year, warns WatchForMeCT.org. Watch for Me CT, a public safety campaign run by the state Department of Transportation in partnership with the Connecticut Children’s Injury Prevention Center, has taken aim at reducing the incidents of pedestrians hit and injured and sometimes killed in car crashes.

An estimated 56% of car-versus-pedestrian crashes occur in the fall and winter seasons in Connecticut. Significantly more of them happen on weekdays (78%) than weekends. More of the crashes and serious injuries could be avoided if drivers slowed down and eliminated distractions while they are behind the wheel of a 2.9-ton (compact) to 5.4-ton vehicle (SUV or large truck).

As the push for healthier lifestyles has taken hold, more people are engaging in biking and walking. The state, cities, towns, and private businesses have done more to make roads, especially in downtown areas and business districts, more safe and inviting. These steps encourage more foot traffic, and local businesses benefit. More improvements focus on traffic-calming measures, such as speed bumps or humps, changes in roadway curvature, and increased enforcement and the reduction of speed limits, which aren’t very popular among drivers.

There’s only so much public safety officials can do, and traffic and road safety features can go only so far. Pedestrians have met painful and prolonged injuries and even tragic ends crossing roads in the best and safest of circumstances: in broad daylight, in clearly marked crosswalks, and with all the proper stop signs and traffic lights in place and in working order.

Speeding and distracted drivers appear to be the main culprits. The fatality rate goes up substantially as speed increases slightly, according to a 2011 report by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. The death rate more than doubles for pedestrians when speed increases from 25 to 35 mph.

Pedestrian fatalities increased by 466, a 9.5% increase, according to a 2015 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report. The pedestrian fatality count (5,376) was the highest number since 1996. Pedestrians injured increased by 5,000, a 7.7% increase.

If you can stand it, you need only sample a few seconds of the quite brutal YouTube videos (there are more than 2 million) showing pedestrians being hit by cars to get the picture. You’ll then probably want to quickly switch over to watching the more popular videos of kittens and other cuddly animals at play to calm yourself. On second thought, maybe it’s better to keep your outrage.