The BDN Editorial Board operates independently from the newsroom, and does not set policies or contribute to reporting or editing articles elsewhere in the newspaper or on bangordailynews.com.
Pedestrian deaths have been on the rise for years in Maine. And, tragically, 2022 was no exception. There were 21 pedestrian deaths in Maine last year, according to the Department of Public Safety. This followed 20 pedestrian deaths in 2021, a tally also reached in 2017 and had been the largest number on record.
Just in December, three pedestrian deaths in Maine included a man who was hit while walking near an Interstate 95 exit in Bangor, a man hit while walking along Route 1 in Hancock and a young woman struck by a truck in Lewiston.
These collisions can happen any time, but Maine Department of Transportation data show that the evening hours remain most dangerous for pedestrians. December also is the most common month for crashes involving pedestrians. More crashes involving pedestrians happen in urban areas, which are more crowded. But there are more crashes that kill pedestrians in rural areas, where lighting is more sparse and cars travel faster, making it less likely a pedestrian can survive a crash, a state transportation official told the BDN in late 2021.
There are steps that can be taken, like clearer crosswalks; more sidewalks and better sidewalk maintenance; and increasing the separation between vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists. But in a mostly rural state like Maine, there are many stretches of road that won’t see sidewalks or bike lanes any time soon. That makes education and awareness for drivers and pedestrians key for preventing future crashes.
Likewise, pedestrians should stow their phones and ear buds and follow state laws, which include the requirement that people walk against traffic when a sidewalk is not available or the road’s shoulder. Using a crosswalk also is important, but not a failsafe measure to cross streets.
Pedestrians, especially in the early morning and evening, need to ensure they are wearing bright colors to be as visible as possible.
As we wrote last year, pedestrian deaths aren’t just statistics. They are our friends, family, neighbors and co-workers. Their deaths shouldn’t be forgone conclusions of modern transportation. This doesn’t have to keep happening.
Each situation is different, but it seems that many could be avoided if drivers — and in some cases, pedestrians — pay better attention and make safer decisions on and around Maine roads. We wish we didn’t have to keep writing this, but apparently it bears repeating: Be safe out there — especially on these days when it gets dark early — for your own sake and for the sake of others.