Opinion: Commuters and pedestrians need to be more aware of one another

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As a freshman hailing from a town with approximately 500 people, one of the biggest changes I’ve had to deal with is the massive amount of traffic. I assumed that, with as many vehicles and bicycles that fill the streets on a daily basis, that others would be as hyper vigilant as I am.

This is not the case.

In Manhattan, people often cross the road without actually checking for vehicles or waiting for them to stop. While it is true that pedestrians usually have the right of way, particularly on college campuses, this practice can be extremely risky.

In 2012, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Traffic Safety Facts reported 4,743 pedestrian fatalities in traffic crashes nationwide – which averages one pedestrian killed every two hours and injured every seven minutes. It is estimated by the NHTSA that 76,000 pedestrians were injured in these crashes.

The number of pedestrian fatalities has steadily risen over the past four years, and accounted for 14 percent of crash-related deaths in 2012, according to the NHTSA.

Bicyclists, defined as riders of non-motorized vehicles powered solely by pedaling, have seen a similar increase in fatalities. According to the NHTSA, 726 bicyclist fatalities were reported in 2012, resulting in 2.2 percent of the total fatalities. The number of annual bicyclist fatalities has increased consistently over the past three years.

Despite these increases, the overall number of traffic fatalities had decreased by nearly 10,000 annual fatalities since 2003, according to the NHTSA. The legal resources website HG.org cited that the majority of these accidents were caused by driver negligence or inattentiveness, which is caused by engaging in activities such as cellphone usage, eating while driving or any other distracting activity. Aggressive driving is another common cause of vehicle accidents.

With these statistics in mind, it becomes clear that all pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers need to tune in to their surroundings better. Pedestrians and cyclists need to be observant and cautious when crossing streets or otherwise interacting with motor vehicles. Drivers, on the other hand, need to focus solely on driving while they are behind the wheel.

When we were young, most of us probably had sayings like, “look before you cross the street,” or, “stop, look and listen,” drilled into our heads by our parents and teachers. Unfortunately, by the time students reach college, it seems this safety rule has been forgotten, or at least disregarded.

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