After a rise in pedestrian fatalities in Tennessee, AAA (The Auto Club Group) is releasing alarming new survey data, which captures close calls between drivers and pedestrians on our roads.

According to new survey data from AAA, nearly one in three (31%) Tennesseans report witnessing a vehicle almost hit a pedestrian in the past 12 months. Additionally, nearly a quarter of drivers (23%) say they have almost hit a pedestrian while driving at some point in the past. One in five Tennesseans (21%) who walk in residential or downtown areas said they had almost been hit by a vehicle while walking in the past year.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, pedestrian fatalities reached a 40-year high in 2021. That year, 7,388 pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes. That’s the equivalent of one pedestrian injury every 9 minutes and a death every 71 minutes.

“Pedestrian safety is an issue that affects everyone, and it’s clear based on our survey that there’s more work to be done in Tennessee to help keep pedestrians safe,” said Megan Cooper, spokeswoman for AAA.

Distracted drivers, speeding drivers, and impaired drivers were the top three concerns Tennesseans cited as threats to pedestrian safety.

Pedestrian safety is a two-way street. The AAA survey identified that both drivers and pedestrians engaged in unsafe behaviors in the last 12 months:

  • Although Tennesseans cite speeding as a concern for pedestrian safety, 87% of drivers admitted to driving over the speed limit. Meanwhile, 85% of drivers admitted to speeding up to make it through a traffic light.
  • Drivers admitted to risky behaviors such as driving through an intersection while the traffic light is red (39%), not yielding to those crossing the street (29%), and backing out of a driveway without looking (27%).
  • Despite nearly three in four (74%) Tennesseans finding it never acceptable to walk while impaired by alcohol or other impairing substances, over a quarter (26%) of those who walk regularly say they have walked while impaired in the past year.
  • At least one in five residents who walked regularly did so using headphones (27%) or a cell phone to text (20%) or talk (21%) about half the time or more frequently.
  • Over half (53%) of Tennesseans who walk have entered crosswalks when the don’t walk sign is on.

Over half of Tennesseans (56%) walk in a residential or downtown area at least once a week. Most residents who walk do so for exercise (56%) or leisure (53%), while about one-third walk to take their pet for a walk (33%) or because they parked away from their destination (31%).

On these walks, Tennesseans identified obstacles that prevented them from walking safely:

  • No sidewalks, paths, or shoulders (66%)
  • Sidewalks or paths started and ended abruptly (60%)
  • Sidewalks blocked with poles, signs, shrubbery, dumpsters, etc. (53%)
  • Parked cars blocked the view of traffic (52%)

Half of Tennesseans (51%) say they would walk more often if changes were made to improve pedestrian infrastructure in their local area.

“Pedestrians and bicyclists are some of the most vulnerable users of the transportation system. Ideally, transportation systems should be built so that if pedestrians or bicyclists are involved in a crash, the odds of serious injury or death are minimized,” continued Cooper. “Our overall goal is to help encourage safe, responsible behavior by everyone that uses our roads and prioritize their ability to reach their destination unharmed.”

AAA offers the following safety reminders:

Best practices for pedestrians 

  • Be visible – always wear light or reflective clothing and stay in well-lit areas, if possible.
  • Stay on sidewalks or pathways when possible. Walk in the opposite direction of traffic.
  • Put your phone away and focus on the walk. Distractions can cause you to not see and anticipate a driver’s actions.
  • Avoid wearing headphones so you can hear what is happening around you and respond.

Best practices for drivers

  • Stay Alert. Drivers should anticipate that a pedestrian may enter their path at any time.
  • Follow posted speed limits. Especially in areas of heavy pedestrian traffic.
  • Avoid distractions. Even one second of taking your eyes off the road is enough time for a pedestrian to walk in front of your moving vehicle.
  • Always yield to pedestrians in crosswalks and reduce speed when entering a crosswalk area.
  • Do not pass a vehicle that has stopped at a crosswalk.

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