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March/April 2015 Issue

On the interstate, 0 mph can be as deadly as speeding, AAA report shows

One of the most dangerous speeds on an interstate highway is 0 mph, a conclusion reached in a new report from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety that found that pedestrian deaths on the nation’s interstate highways make up a significant percentage of the overall pedestrian fatalities–especially in Arkansas.

Motorists might think that the sight of a pedestrian on the interstate is rare, but statistics prove otherwise. According to the report, an average of 515 pedestrians were struck and killed by motor vehicles on the nation’s Interstate Highway System each year from 1993 to 2012. These deaths accounted for about 10 percent of all pedestrian fatalities in the United States and 11.6 percent of all traffic fatalities on interstate highways.

In Arkansas, however, one in five pedestrian deaths happened on an interstate highway in that time frame, roughly twice the national average. Only Wyoming, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas had higher rates. The percentage of interstate pedestrian deaths compared to total pedestrian fatalities was 13.1 percent in Louisiana and 9.7 percent in Mississippi.

“There were 162 pedestrians killed on Arkansas’s interstates in those 10 years, which is concerning,” said Mike Right, vice president of AAA Public Affairs. “Little research has been conducted to investigate this problem before, but we hope this report shows the grave dangers of being a pedestrian on an interstate. Speeding often contributes to highway deaths, but this study shows that 0 miles per hour can be just as deadly for pedestrians and drivers stopped on the highway.”

Pedestrians may enter the interstate intentionally, often despite restrictions, while drivers and motor vehicle occupants may become “unintended” pedestrians.

Motorists become unintended pedestrians as they deal with a disabled vehicle, exit their vehicle to retrieve something that fell from their car, stop on the shoulder to change drivers, or deal with any number of situations that can occur. Interstate pedestrians need to be aware that vehicles are passing at 60-plus mph, often operated by inattentive drivers not expecting pedestrians.

The report also found that:

  • Most of the interstate pedestrian fatalities nationwide (74.4 percent) occurred between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m., and nearly half took place on Saturday or Sunday.
  • There were twice as many pedestrian interstate deaths in urban areas as in rural areas.
  • The pedestrians fatally injured on interstates were most commonly male (80.2 percent) and between the ages of 20 and 39 (47.6 percent).
  • More than a third of the pedestrians killed on interstates were legally drunk.

If you have car trouble on the interstate and can’t make it to the next exit, in most circumstances you should pull onto the far right shoulder, as far off the road as possible. Turn on the emergency flashers. If you have a cell phone, immediately use it to call for help. Make the call from inside your vehicle if you are safely out of traffic.

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One in 10 pedestrian fatalities nationwide occurs on an interstate, the report found.


 

AAA tool shows how medications can affect driving

Medications are designed to make us well, but those same drugs also can put people at risk behind the wheel, so the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety developed a free interactive tool to help keep drivers safe.

Motorists are justifiably worried that illicit drugs can impair drivers. New research from the AAA Foundation found that 56 percent of drivers consider driving under the influence of illicit drugs a very serious threat. Yet only 28 percent feel that same threat from drivers under the influence of prescription drugs.

However, many prescription and over-the-counter medications can impair a driver in similar ways as alcohol. Studies have found that a single dose of some cold and allergy medications can have the same effect on driving as being above the legal limit for blood alcohol concentration, and certain antidepressants can increase crash risk by up to 41 percent.

To educate drivers on the impact that prescription and over-the-counter drugs can have on safe driving, the AAA Foundation developed Roadwise RX–an interactive tool that allows users to input their medications and check for side effects that impair drivers. Located at www.roadwiserx.com, the easy-to-use tool also notes if there are adverse interactions for multiple medications.

AAA also cautions drivers to discuss potential side effects of their medications with their doctor or pharmacist.

 


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