Pedestrian Deaths On Rise in the U.S., Report Finds


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Volvo Pedestrian Detection and Auto Brake Technology. Credit: Volvo
The roads may be getting safer for drivers over the past decade, but despite the growing number of driver assist technologies like those pictured above, the same can not be said for pedestrians according to a new report from the Governor’s Highway Safety Association.

It shows that more than 6,200 pedestrians were killed in 2018 - the highest number in three decades. The preliminary data collected so far is based on state figures for the first six months of 2018, an increase of an increase of four percent from 2017.

GHSA Study Data

The GHSA reports that in recent years, the number of pedestrian fatalities in the United States is up sharply. During the 10-year period from 2008 to 2017, the number of pedestrian fatalities increased by 35 percent (from 4,414 deaths in 2008 to 5,977 deaths in 2017); meanwhile, the combined number of all other traffic deaths declined by six percent. Along with the increase in the number of pedestrian fatalities, pedestrian deaths as a percentage of total motor vehicle crash deaths increased from 12 percent in 2008 to 16 percent in 2017.

The present study, based on preliminary data from all 50 states and the District of Columbia (DC), found the alarming rise in pedestrian deaths observed in both 2015 and 2016 appears to have resumed in 2018, although at a lesser pace. For the first six months of 2018 GHSA found a three percent increase in the reported number of pedestrian fatalities compared with the first six months of 2017.

However, after adjusting for anticipated underreporting in the preliminary state data and considering the historic trends in pedestrian fatalities during the first and second halves of the year, GHSA estimates the nationwide number of pedestrians killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2018 was 6,227, an increase of four percent from 2017.

This projection represents a continuation of an increasing trend in pedestrian deaths going back to 2009 and would be the largest annual number of pedestrian fatalities in the U.S. since 1990.

GHSA’s latest analysis of preliminary pedestrian fatality data also indicates the following:
  • States reported a range of changes in the number of pedestrian fatalities in the first half of 2018 compared with the same period in 2017
  • 25 states (and DC) had increases in pedestrian fatalities; 23 states had decreases. Two states remained the same.

States differ widely in fatality numbers:

  • The estimated number of pedestrian deaths for the first half of 2018 ranged from one in New Hampshire to 432 in California.
  • Seven states (California, Florida, Texas, Georgia, Arizona, New York and North Carolina – in rank order) are each expected to have more than 100 pedestrian deaths – an increase of two states from 2017.
  • Five states (Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia and Texas) accounted for almost half — 46 percent — of all pedestrian deaths.
  • New Mexico had the highest rate of pedestrian deaths per resident population, while New Hampshire had the lowest.

Trends

The GHSA lists several causes behind the rise in pedestrian fatalities, including the growing popularity of SUVs and the fact that more people are walking to work these days:
  • More walking has increased exposure, as one survey estimated that the number of Americans walking to work in the past week increased about four percent between 2007 and 2016;
  • Most pedestrian fatalities take place on local roads, at night, away from intersections, suggesting the need for safer road crossings. Over the past 10 years, nighttime crashes accounted for more than 90 percent of the total increase in pedestrian deaths;
  • 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 about half of traffic crashes that resulted in pedestrian fatalities in 2017; and
  • The number of sport utility vehicles (SUVs) involved in pedestrian deaths has increased by 50 percent since 2013. By comparison, (non-SUV) passenger cars’ involvement in pedestrian fatalities increased by 30 percent over the same time period. Although passenger cars still account for the majority of pedestrian deaths, SUVs – which generally cause more severe pedestrian injuries – make up an increasingly large percentage of registered vehicles.

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