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Pedestrian deaths linked to distraction, marijuana use

The recent alarming rise in pedestrian deaths in California and around the country has been attributed to distraction and cell phone use by many road safety experts. However, a report released on Feb. 28 by the Governors Highway Safety Association suggests that marijuana use may also be contributing to the problem. According to the GHSA, pedestrian fatalities during the first six months of 2017 rose by an average of 16.4 percent in the District of Columbia and the seven states where the recreational use of marijuana is permitted. The road safety group's figures reveal that pedestrian deaths during the same period fell by 5.8 percent on average in the rest of the country.

However, distraction is seen by most road safety experts as the bigger threat, and studies have found that pedestrians staring at their phones are just as much of an issue as drivers using mobile devices behind the wheel. Pedestrians in Montclair can be ticketed for using their cell phones while they cross the street, and lawmakers in several other parts of the country are considering similar measures. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, pedestrian deaths rose by 9.5 percent in 2015 and 9 percent in 2016, and the figures for 2017 are expected to be just as sobering. The GHSA report puts the 2017 pedestrian death toll at 5,984.

Auto manufacturers have introduced automatic braking systems in recent years that could prevent many pedestrian accidents. Safety groups, such as the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, say that redesigning automobile headlights would save even more lives. The trade group says that directional headlights would provide a huge safety dividend because 75 percent of fatal pedestrian accidents take place at night.

Pedestrian accident lawsuits often involve plaintiffs and defendants accusing one another of acting negligently. Civil litigation is decided based on the preponderance of the evidence, and experienced personal injury lawyers may conduct additional inquiries when police reports do not provide the information they need to win their arguments. Attorneys or their investigators may canvass accident scenes for eyewitnesses who could have been overlooked and security cameras that may have captured the events on film.

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