In response to the alarming increase in pedestrian fatalities, lawmakers propose higher fines for drivers who pose a risk to pedestrians. Rep. Steve Malagari, D-Lansdale, advocates for quadrupling the current $50 fine to $200 for drivers who fail to yield the right-of-way, particularly in school zones.
Highlighting the potentially lethal consequences of not stopping for pedestrians in crosswalks, Malagari emphasizes the urgent need for change. His proposed House Bill 1056 aims to mandate that vehicles in both directions yield to pedestrians in crosswalks, a common-sense adjustment that could save lives.
Approximately half of all pedestrian deaths occur when a driver strikes a pedestrian using a crosswalk. Malagari’s bill aims to ensure that drivers traveling in both directions prioritize pedestrian safety.
Pennsylvania law generally permits individuals to cross the street at any point. However, pedestrians are expected to use sidewalks and crosswalks when available, while yielding to vehicles if neither an intersection nor a crosswalk is present.
Despite a decrease in overall traffic fatalities in 2022 following a prolonged increase, pedestrian deaths have remained persistently high. In April, PennDOT reported the second-highest number of pedestrian fatalities in 20 years, with 183 recorded in 2022.
As previously reported, pedestrian deaths have risen by 21% since 2019, indicating a concerning trend that demands attention.
Notably, the level of danger varies across different areas. Among Pennsylvania’s major cities, Pittsburgh stands out as the safest, with a lower rate of pedestrian deaths per 100,000 people compared to Allentown, Scranton, Harrisburg, and Philadelphia.
However, pedestrian advocates express greater concern regarding road design rather than driver fines. Steve Davis of Smart Growth America points out that traffic engineers have prioritized moving vehicles swiftly through neighborhoods rather than improving road safety for pedestrians.
PennDOT’s 2021 Crash Facts & Statistics report acknowledges that a majority of accidents involve some form of poor or degraded driver performance. Factors such as impaired driving and speeding continue to contribute significantly to fatal crashes.
As lawmakers seek solutions to address the rise in pedestrian deaths, the need for both stricter penalties and enhanced road design emerges as critical aspects of comprehensive safety measures.