In 2011, the U.S. reached another record-low auto fatality rate, but the drop in deaths hasn't been even across the board. In 2010, for example, pedestrian fatalities actually ticked up 1%, and in 2011, the rate jumped 3%.
Perhaps more troubling -- especially if you're a guy -- is a new study showing that men are more likely to die as a result of pedestrian accidents than women.
The study was led by Dr. Motao Zhu of the Department of Epidemiology and Injury Control Research Center at West Virginia University. Dr. Zhu and his colleagues were inspired by a curious fact:
Pedestrians account for a third of the 1.2 million traffic fatalities annually worldwide, and men are overrepresented. We examined the factors that contribute to this male-female discrepancy: walking exposure (kilometres walked per person-year), vehicle-pedestrian collision risk (number of collisions per kilometres walked) and vehicle-pedestrian collision case fatality rate (number of deaths per collision).
During the study, researchers examined pedestrian fatality rates in the U.S. for calendar years 2008 and 2009. In doing so, Dr. Zhu's team found that the fatality rate for male pedestrians was 2.3 times higher than that of female pedestrians.
If men walked more often and traveled farther than women, the jump might be understandable, but Dr. Zhu and his colleagues discovered that men and women tend to walk about the same distances each year. Ultimately, the only reasonable conclusion that the researchers could draw was that men had a higher chance of dying in collisions than women.
As the New York Times reports, however, Dr. Zhu doesn't fully understand why men are more likely to die that way. He suggests that men might be more prone to put themselves in dangerous situations, like crossing busy highways and walking while intoxicated. It'll take further evaluation to explain the discrepancy.
In the meantime, automakers are working to reduce pedestrian injuries and fatalities with an array of new technologies. General Motors is taking the innovative approach of spotting pedestrians' cell phone signals, while Volvo is relying on more traditional radar and infrared sensors to identify not just pedestrians, but also animals.
Whether you're a guy or a gal, please be careful and mind your step this holiday season.