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    If You're Reading This, You Just Survived the Deadliest Day of the Year for Pedestrians

    Written by

    Brian Merchant

    Senior Editor

    Congratulations. If you're reading this, you've most likely made it through another holiday season with little more than a series of hangovers, a healthy annoyance at your extended family, and a bunch of shiny stuff you don't need. But you're alive.

    So consider yourself fortunate, especially if you're fond of walking around—New Year's is the deadliest day for pedestrians of the year.

    The Washington Post's Sarah Kliff explains:

    Researchers in the journal Injury Prevention counted 99 pedestrian deaths on Jan. 1 between 1986 and 2002, making it the deadliest day for pedestrians in the calendar year. Those deaths were more likely to occur in the early hours of the morning, with 48 percent happening between midnight and 6 a.m.

    That trend has continued.

    All those people spilling out of bars after midnight and making their way to the next party or cab or diner but instead getting run down by drivers who are probably drunk account for half of the crazy New Year's death spree, in other words.

    It's better, but not by much, for drivers. The National Transportation Safety Board calls New Year's the deadliest day to be on the road, thanks largely to all of those inebriated idiots getting in cars. The holiday has only the fifth-highest fatality rate for car crashes alone, however, since more cars clog the roadways on massive travel days like the 4th of July and the run-up to Christmas.

    There are weird anomalies, of course: Minnesota, for instance, has now gone five years without a single traffic fatality on New Year's.

    Generally, however, the tragic uptick in pedestrian carnage highlights a distinct point of system breakdown—a reminder of the folly of car-centric society. Ideally, after all, our transportation system should be allowed to operate in times of revelry and human recklessness without an onslaught of fatalities. Car-dependent transit, the American way, allows for no such thing.

    More and better public transit options would dampen the death toll, for starters. And we'd see less pedestrian fatalities if we built our living environs to be denser, more walkable in the first place. Perhaps more of us should resolve to focus on new, car-less transit technologies this New Year's, so more folks will have the benefit of living through the next one.

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