Two recent incidents in Houston have shined a spotlight on an increasing danger faced by pedestrians and bicyclists everywhere: distracted drivers. On Monday, a teenage girl in north Houston was left in serious condition when she was hit by a vehicle while crossing the street in front of a middle school. Then, on Tuesday morning, a man was killed when he was hit by a car after getting off a Metro bus and then trying to cross the street. As reported by KHOU, both incidents are still under investigation and decisions are still being made on whether any charges will be pressed against the drivers involved.
In addition to being horrible for those involved, these incidents point to a disturbing, yet growing trend across the United States of increased injuries to pedestrians and bicyclists on US roadways. A recent study conducted at the University of Nebraska Medical Center found that the number of pedestrians killed by distracted drivers has gone up almost 50% from 2003 to 2010. The study also found the number of cyclists killed by distracted drivers has gone up approximately 30%. Further, researchers fear that actual deaths attributed to distracted drivers may be even higher because of the difficulty involved in proving an at-fault driver was distracted.
Researchers point to less social stigma around driving distracted and the lack of effectiveness of programs and policies aimed at reducing driver distractions, and they suggest that marked pathways for pedestrians and cyclists may be an effective way to protect these potential victims.