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scottdale phoenix

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No recovery  •  no fee


Scottsdale  •  Phoenix

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Arizonans enjoy outdoor activities year-round: festivals, concerts, hiking, jogging — you name it. And while most of us do a lot of driving in the desert, perhaps along the way from point A to point B, we might find ourselves walking on a busy street without a sidewalk. This raises the very real risk of getting hit by a car. Not only does this happen more than we might like to think, but such auto-on-pedestrian collisions are actually on the rise.

The Governor’s Highway Safety Association (GHSA) reviews accident data across the nation.  Arizona ranks 2nd in the United States for pedestrian traffic fatalities per capita for 2018. Roughly 200-250 pedestrians were killed in traffic accidents in Arizona in 2018.

Pedestrian v. Auto Accidents Are Increasing in Arizona

Modern vehicles are increasingly equipped with advanced safety technologies like back-up cameras, front cameras, bird’s eye view cameras, alarms to alert driver of pedestrians, and moving side mirrors. Yet, auto vs. pedestrian accidents are increasing at an alarming rate.

This raises the question: why aren’t these safety technologies reducing the frequency of these collisions?

Why Aren’t Safety Technologies Lowering The Incidence of These Accidents?

Of course, one obvious factor is the smartphone. People are staring at their phones, both while driving and while walking. So, with the increasing prevalence of safety technologies, so too has the usage of the smartphone.

But a second factor may be surprising: a vehicle’s safety features may actually render that vehicle MORE likely to be involved in a collision! How can this be?

Well, such features may offer a false sense of security, lulling us to lose our vigilance behind the wheel. We may then come to rely on the technologies more than we actually should, and reduce our attention to the road accordingly. This is known as Risk Homeostasis: the paradoxical idea that, the safer our world becomes, the more careless we might become in response.

How Can Autonomous Driving Potentially Make Cars More Dangerous?!

Consider autonomous driving. If a driver knows that a vehicle drives itself, is it really any surprise that its driver might pay less attention to the road? In this way, while autonomous driving should make a car theoretically safer, it may have the unintended effect of causing a driver to become more careless. This reduction in driver attention poses the risk of offsetting the safety benefits.

This brings us back to auto-on-pedestrian collisions. Obviously, if a driver has his focus on his smartphone, he is more likely to cause a collision. But the following may be less obvious: if the driver has alarms to alert of nearby pedestrians, then he may exercise less vigilance than he otherwise would. For example, he might expect an alarm to go off if he were about to cause a collision, and not keep his eyes on the road like he should. This would be in careless and excessive reliance on that alarm, which might very well go off — but likely too little, too late.

We must remember that advanced technology is no substitute for careful attention. It is for this reason that some automakers are including features, in connection with their autonomous functionality, to require a driver’s hands to be on the wheel and/or eyes to be on the road, using sensors for each.

But, if there is a will, there is a way. Believe it or not, there are YouTube videos instructing drivers, faced with these obstacles, on how to get around them. Elaborate weight systems have been applied to steering wheels to fool the “smart” vehicle into believing that the driver’s hands are on the wheel. Meanwhile, the driver has climbed into the backseat — all with a vehicle speeding along at 70 mph on a highway. That, right there, is Risk Homeostasis exemplified at its worst.

An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure

The American Automobile Association (AAA) estimates that anywhere between 25-50% of accidents are due — at least in part — to distracted driving. What can we do in our own lives to make us, and our loved ones, safer?

Pedestrian Safety Tips

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) offers some common sense tips to keep pedestrians safe.  The following is a reminder for some and new information for others:

  1. Pedestrians should walk on the sidewalk and cross the street at a designated crosswalk;
  2. Pay attention to traffic and do not act in an unpredictable manner;
  3. Always watch for vehicles acting unpredictably (distracted driving);
  4. If you must walk in an area without sidewalks, walk on the shoulder of the road and walk in the OPPOSITE direction of traffic;
  5. Never assume a driver sees you;
  6. When you walk at night, wear light-colored or reflective clothing.

Also, for all the dangers that arise from driving while distracted, what about WALKING while distracted? Safety is a “two-way street.” Likewise, the danger greatly increases when BOTH the driver AND the pedestrian are EACH distracted by their phones.

How often do we see someone walking along, smartphone in hand and earbuds in ears? These people are voluntarily blinding and deafening themselves to the potential life-threatening dangers posed by traffic!

Moreover, the importance of visually paying attention while walking may now be greater than ever before, given the prevalence of silent vehicles on our roadways. Whereas a combustion-powered vehicle can be heard coming from a distance, which might attract a pedestrian’s attention, electric vehicles tend to be relatively quiet. All the more reason to keep one’s eyes AND EARS on the road — whether walking OR driving.

Driver Safety Tips

  1. Drivers should be aware of pedestrians on and/or near the roadway. Today’s vehicles are often slightly higher, so it may make viewing pedestrians down relatively below more difficult;
  2. Watch for pedestrians crossing the street, especially when making a turn;
  3. Be aware of pedestrians who may cross the street in areas where there are few traffic lights or crosswalks;
  4. Do not speed in areas where there is a lot of pedestrian traffic or in school zones;
  5. Be particularly careful when driving in areas that are not well lit.

As to the smartphone, keep it out of your reach. If you keep your phone in your dash or center console, you might be tempted to answer it if you receive a call, or to respond if you receive a text message.

The best way to defeat these temptations might be to place your phone in your backseat or glovebox. Out of sight, out of mind. Otherwise, there may be a lingering nagging desire to use the phone when reaching a stop light, or when in heavy traffic due to boredom. We might justify this. We might say that we are in no real danger, so long as we are stopped or traveling slowly. Not only is this not true, but then you might find yourself sliding down a slippery slope. Once opening that Pandora’s Box of smartphone usage behind the wheel, you might soon find yourself doing it in more and more situations, with an ever-expanding set of rationalizations to convince yourself that it is safe. It isn’t.

So ask yourself: is it worth it? Can that text really not wait?

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