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As more pedestrians are hurt, Georgians ask why

Georgians are rightly proud of our beautiful state so it’s no surprise when the international press finds new reasons to think about us.

Readers of the UK’s Daily Mail did in March, but the newsworthy trend was that Georgia’s becoming a more dangerous place to take a walk. The Daily Mail and National Public Radio both announced that Georgia was one of the five states accounting for nearly 50% of U.S. pedestrian deaths last year.

Pedestrian fatalities in Georgia are now at their highest rate in about 30 years.

How can the trend be reversed?

What can anybody do, either at the wheel and on foot, to halt the rising danger of being a pedestrian?

Obviously, every walker and every driver could review Georgia’s rules of the road. Basic education and frequent reminders about pedestrians are a good idea. But many experts in search of long-term solutions point to broad changes of the past decade.

Changing minds and changing designs

The average vehicle today is larger and heavier than it was 30 years ago. Impacts involving pedestrians are simply deadlier.

Also, drivers spend more time looking at their phones or consoles. They often just don’t have their heads in the driving game. So, a variety of distracted driving laws have recently been enacted across country, including in Georgia.

But there’s also been a huge increase in distracted walking. Many more pedestrians are reading and texting on the go.

Last year, the Georgia Tech campus police launched a campaign encouraging everyone to keep “heads up and phones down.” Distracted walking laws may soon become as common as distracted driving laws.

Drivers and pedestrians both make foolish choices now and then, so fool-proof design of roads and streets is a goal of the Georgia State Highway Patrol.

They and other groups ask what can be done better during the design process.

“Friendly infrastructure” like more pedestrian bridges and better crosswalks could make for less pedestrian exposure to traffic and could help stop the rise in pedestrian accidents.

Drivers buckling up, pedestrians lacing up and designers going back to the drawing board can all improve pedestrian safety by addressing the problem long before an accident happens.

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