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Distractions, drugs behind rise in pedestrian deaths

Distractions and drug use are causing an increase in pedestrian fatalities in Minnesota and across the U.S., according to a recent report by the Governors Highway Safety Administration. The GHSA report, which was released in February, states that 5,984 pedestrians were killed by motor vehicles in 2017.

It is the second year in a row that pedestrian deaths have hovered around 6,000. In 2015 and 2016, pedestrian deaths spiked by 9 percent and 9.5 percent, respectively. Analysts have yet to prove the causes of this deadly trend, but traffic safety experts believe two factors are likely involved.

The first factor is distracted driving. Smartphones and GPS systems frequently tempt drivers to take their eyes off the road, meaning they aren't paying attention to pedestrians. Meanwhile, some pedestrians are also looking at their phones when they are walking across the street, meaning they aren't paying attention to traffic. The combined inattention can be deadly.

The second factor is marijuana. According to the GHSA report, pedestrian fatalities increased 16.4 percent in the first half of 2017 in the states that have legalized recreational marijuana. An additional factor could be poor headlight designs that don't properly illuminate the road. Approximately 75 percent of all pedestrian deaths occur at night.

Pedestrian accidents can cause a number of catastrophic injuries, including back and neck ailments. In order to collect compensation for medical expenses and other damages, some injured pedestrians choose to file personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault parties. An attorney could help a victim collect police reports and witness testimony that supports the claim and work to obtain a settlement through the at-fault driver's insurance company. If necessary, the claim could be litigated in court.

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