Whether major or minor, car accidents can be a scary and stressful experience. It can be an especially upsetting experience if a pedestrian is involved in the accident. And, according to a report by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), “nearly 6,000 pedestrians were killed in motor vehicle crashes in the U.S. in 2017, marking the second year in a row at numbers not seen in 25 years.”

But, what’s causing the high number of pedestrian deaths? While the report doesn’t pinpoint any specific causes, it does note a few trends that may correlate with the rise of pedestrian deaths: the prevalent use of smartphones and the legalization of marijuana.

No Direct Cause Identified, Just Contributing Factors

It’s important to first note that the report doesn’t claim a specific link or direct correlation to the increase in pedestrian deaths. Instead it states that “more recent factors contributing to the increase in pedestrian fatalities might include the growing number of state and local governments that have decriminalized the recreational use of marijuana, which can impair judgment and reaction time for all road users.”

In fact, Car and Driver writes that there was a collective 16.4% increase in pedestrian deaths when comparing the first six months of 2017 to the same time period of 2016 in states where marijuana was legalized. The study specifically named: Alaska, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and the District of Columbia. In comparison, all other states had a collective 5.8% decrease in pedestrian deaths for the same period of time.

Also mentioned in the report as a possible factor is the use of smartphones, which may apply to both drivers and pedestrians. After all, how many times have you seen people walking around with their head down looking at their phones, and not paying attention to where they’re walking? Similarly, drivers who text while driving, or simply get distracted by something on their smartphone, create a hazard for both drivers and pedestrians alike.

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