The number of pedestrian fatalities has been rising rapidly over the last decade. From 2009 to 2018, the number of pedestrian fatalities in the United States increased by 53%.
Many factors contribute to pedestrian fatalities, including population growth, weather, economic conditions and demographic changes. As time passes, habits change and increases in technology pose risks. For example, in recent years there has been a shift in American consumer buying trends away from passenger cars to light trucks. Light trucks generally cause more severe pedestrian impacts than passenger cars. Increased smartphone usage contributes to cognitive and visual distractions for road users which could also be a factor that contributes to higher pedestrian fatality rates.
Pedestrian Fatalities by State
According to data provided by the Governors Highway Safety Association, states have reported changes in the number of pedestrian fatalities in the first half of 2019 when compared to the same period in 2018. 30 states, including Alabama, California, Nevada and Washington had increases in pedestrian fatalities. 20 states, including Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin had decreases in pedestrian fatalities.
The five states that accounted for almost half of all pedestrian deaths in the first half of 2019 were:
For the first six months of 2019, New Mexico had the highest rate of pedestrian deaths per 100,000 residents while Vermont had the lowest.
Many factors outside the control of state and local traffic safety officials contribute to increased or decreased pedestrian fatalities. This includes economic conditions, population growth, weather, fuel prices, demographic changes, changing patterns of drug use and the amount of time people spend walking. Increases in most pedestrian fatalities are occurring at night when visibility is worse.
An example of how multiple factors can lead to more pedestrian fatalities would be- warmer weather encourages more night-time outdoor activity and when associated with increased alcohol consumption, can increase the amount of pedestrian fatalities.
Although pedestrian fatalities have been rising over the last decade, there are plenty of things you can do to increase your safety and decrease risk while walking. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s 10 tips for walking safely are a great place to start:
1. Be predictable, follow traffic rules and obey crosswalks and other signs.
2. Always walk on sidewalks when they are available.
3. If a sidewalk is not available, walk facing traffic and keep as much distance as possible
4. Cross streets at crosswalks and intersections and look in both directions before crossing.
5. If a crosswalk is not available, cross in a well-lit area that allows you to have a good view of traffic.
6. Stay alert and minimize use of electronic devices that distract you.
7. Never assume that you have been seen by a driver, establish eye contact with drivers to ensure you have been seen.
8. Be visible, wear bright clothing during the day and reflective materials or a light at night.
9. Watch for cars entering or exiting driveways or backing up in parking lots.
10. Avoid the use of alcohol or other substances that can impair your abilities and judgment.