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Preliminary data from the Governors Highway Safety Association shows 2019 as one of the deadliest years for pedestrians in more than 30 years. It’s a chilling statistic: 6,590 pedestrians were killed on U.S. roads last year. One place where two-ton automobiles and people meet is at a crosswalk. A new study published in the Journal of Transport & Health studied if the price of a car affected whether it would yield to a pedestrian in the crosswalk. The study concluded that the more expensive the car, the less likely it would yield to pedestrians.

The study examined if a driver’s yielding behavior would change based on the gender and skin color of the pedestrian, and the estimated cost of the car. The scientists conducted the study at two mid-block crosswalks in Las Vegas and discovered that the odds of a car yielding decreased 3 percent per $1,000 increase in car cost.

Of the 461 cars recorded in the study, 27.98 percent yielded to pedestrians, though race and gender mattered. Cars yielded more frequently for females – 31.33 percent – compared to males – 24.06 percent. The same is seen in race: Cars yielded more frequently for whites – 31.17 percent – compared to non-whites –24.78 percent.

While the study does show a noticeable difference based on gender and race, the inability to interview the drivers makes it difficult to identify why they failed to yield at all. The study notes that younger drivers and male drivers exhibit riskier behavior behind the wheel. The scientists also noted that there are studies that show wealth is associated with more unethical behavior.

It’s strange to see an increase in pedestrian deaths as automakers continue to offer pedestrian safety features in new models. But today’s vehicles are larger, and consumers are flocking to big crossovers and SUVs, too. We may not know why drivers are failing to yield to pedestrians, nor why pedestrian deaths continue to rise, but we should expect more focus on the issue going forward.

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