2019 Pedestrian Deaths Highest Since 1988


Pedestrians now represent 17% of all traffic deaths. - GHSA
Credit: GHSA
Do you walk and look at your cell phone at the same time? You might want to stop doing that after reading this new report from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA). Its preliminary data predicts that 6,590 pedestrian fatalities occurred in 2019, the highest number in more than 30 years.

GHSA 2019 Pedestrian Deaths Report

GHSA’s annual “Spotlight on Highway Safety” is a first look at state and national trends in 2019 pedestrian traffic deaths. The info is based on preliminary data provided by State Highway Safety Offices in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Richard Retting of Sam Schwartz Consulting analyzed the data and authored the report.

GHSA asked states to report pedestrian fatalities for the first six months of 2019. After adjusting the raw data based on historical trends, its press release, GHSA says it projects a 5% increase in the number of pedestrians killed during the full 2019 calendar year. In 2018, 6,227 pedestrians lost their lives in motor vehicle crashes.

“In the past 10 years, the number of pedestrian fatalities on our nation’s roadways has increased by more than 50%,” said GHSA Executive Director Jonathan Adkins. “This alarming trend signifies that we need to consider all the factors involved in this rise, identify the high-risk areas, allocate resources where they’re needed most, and continue to work with local law enforcement partners to address the chronic driver violations that contribute to pedestrian crashes.”

Pedestrians are projected to account for 17% of all traffic deaths in 2019, compared to 12% in 2009. While pedestrian deaths have been increasing significantly over the past decade, the number of all other traffic deaths has increased by only 2%. GHSA says a statistical projection of traffic fatalities for the first half of 2019 (conducted by NHTSA) shows an estimated 3.4% reduction in overall traffic fatalities compared to the first half of 2018. Although advancements in motor vehicle safety and technology have increased survivability for vehicle occupants involved in crashes, pedestrians remain just as susceptible to sustaining serious or fatal injuries when struck by a motor vehicle.

Potential Causes In Rise of Pedestrian Deaths

The GHSA points to a number of trends that may offer insight into the many causes behind the rise in pedestrian fatalities:

  • Location: Most pedestrian fatalities take place on local roads, at night and away from intersections, suggesting the need for safer road crossings and increased efforts to make pedestrians and vehicles more visible. During the past 10 years, the number of nighttime pedestrian fatalities increased by 67%, compared to a 16% increase in daytime pedestrian fatalities.

  • Unsafe Driving Behaviors: Many unsafe driving behaviors – such as speeding, distracted and drowsy driving – pose risks to pedestrians, and alcohol impairment by the driver and/or pedestrian was reported in nearly half of traffic crashes that resulted in pedestrian fatalities in 2018.

  • SUVs vs Cars: Pedestrians struck by a large SUV are twice as likely to die as those struck by a car. Although passenger cars are the largest category of vehicles in fatal pedestrian crashes, the number of pedestrian fatalities over the past decade involving SUVs increased at a faster rate – 81% – than passenger cars, which increased by 53%.

“Each year, thousands of additional people are dying in pedestrian crashes compared to a decade ago” said report author Richard Retting. “Following 30 years of declining pedestrian fatalities, there has been a complete reversal of progress. Pedestrians are at an inherent disadvantage in collisions, and we must continue to take a broad approach to pedestrian safety.”

Other Findings

Despite the alarming projected increase in pedestrian deaths, the report identifies a number of promising lessons from state-reported data. For example, 20 states and Washington, D.C., saw declines in pedestrian fatalities for the first half of 2019 compared to 2018, with six states reporting double-digit declines and seven reporting consecutive years of declines. Additionally, sharp decreases in pedestrian fatalities in some cities suggest that state-level data may obscure local success stories.

In addition to examining pedestrian fatality crash characteristics, the report discusses comprehensive strategies to reduce pedestrian and motor vehicle crashes, addressing promising infrastructural, educational and enforcement approaches. It also outlines specific examples from states, such as targeted law enforcement efforts, outreach in high-risk areas, pedestrian safety assessments and road safety audits, and support for engineering efforts.

To download the full report click here.



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