Watch For Pedestrians!

Raymond Peters, Staff Writer

Have you ever come within inches of dying? It’s not as thrilling as you think. Being a pedestrian at Warren is like walking through a minefield. 

According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, or GHSA, an estimated 6,227 pedestrians were killed last year in the United States. In 2018, there were 4,026 students attending this high school. That is every single student at Warren and more.

So, why are  pedestrian fatalities rising? The answer is SUVs and distractions. 

I am a pedestrian at Warren. I have been in more close calls than I can count, mostly with larger cars like SUVs. An SUV can weigh up to 5,000 pounds, or two-and-a-half tons. That is 350 times heavier than a bowling ball. A bowling ball can cause serious injuries despite its size. Bowling injuries include torn tendons, broken wrists and smashed limbs. If a bowling ball can cause that kind of damage, think about the destructive force of a moving vehicle.

The most common injury in a pedestrian accident is a broken bone. If you’re lucky, you could get away with a fracture. If you’re unlucky, you could end up with an amputated limb, spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, or worse. 

Keep in mind most of these are chronic and debilitating injuries that you will have to cope with for the rest of your life. Imagine going to school one day as a youthful, vibrant and active teenager, only to have it all taken away because you were hit by a car.  You could be wheelchair-bound for the rest of your life. 

The Mayo Clinic says that a “spinal cord injury often causes permanent loss of strength, sensation, and function below the site of the injury.” In addition, a prosthetic limb can cost from $5,000 to $50,000, and they need to be replaced every few years. The cost of one of these injuries is substantial — both personally and financially. 

Bicycle helmets reduce the risk of head injury by nearly 70%, according to an article in  The Guardian. However, since a large portion of pedestrians don’t wear helmets, they have a higher chance of having a traumatic brain injury or fatality.

Distracted driving plays a huge part in pedestrian-vehicle accidents. According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), distracted driving — including texting while driving — is the cause of more than 58% of crashes involving teen drivers.

The phrase “distracted driving” often elicits the image of a driver on their phone, and the sight of someone using their cellphone while driving is too common despite the 2019 Illinois law prohibiting it. 

It is commonplace to see a driver eating a breakfast sandwich on the road or putting on concealer at a stoplight. This is dangerous behavior. TeenSafe, an app designed to silence phones while driving, reports that “eating, reading, and applying makeup all increase the likelihood of a collision by two to three times.” Food and makeup aren’t the only distractions. Drivers develop distracting habits that can quickly lead to collisions with other cars and pedestrians. Passengers can draw your eyes away from the road. When a teen is driving with a friend, the risk of a fatal collision doubles. If a teen is at the wheel with more than two passengers, the risk increases fivefold. Many of my own close encounters were with cars with multiple passengers. 

So what can you do? If you’re driving, you need to follow the rules of the road. Remember that book you read for driver’s ed? Yeah, those rules. Remember that pedestrians have the right of way, and that dashed white line is their safe haven while crossing the road. I’ve had to bike around cars who pulled up too far and blocked the crosswalk countless times. If you cross that dashed line in a car, you’re forcing pedestrians and bicyclists into the road and potential danger.

Please, put down your phone and focus on the road. Turn down the radio. Tell your passengers to not distract you while you’re driving. If you’re not giving your full attention to the road, you are driving distracted. 

Next time you’re behind the wheel, you should remind yourself to watch for pedestrians.