Safety

New Projection: 2018 Pedestrian Fatalities Highest Since 1990

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More than 6,200 Pedestrians Killed on U.S. Roads Last Year

new report from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) projects that 6,227 pedestrian fatalities occurred in 2018, the highest number in nearly three decades.

States were asked to report pedestrian fatalities for the first six months of 2018. After adjusting this raw data based on historical trends, GHSA projects a four percent increase in the number of pedestrians killed during the full 2018 calendar year. In 2017, 5,977 people on foot lost their lives in motor vehicle crashes.

GHSA’s yearly “Spotlight on Highway Safety” offers a first look at state and national trends in 2018 pedestrian traffic deaths, 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.

“While we have made progress reducing fatalities among many other road users in the past decade, pedestrian deaths have risen 35 percent,” noted GHSA Executive Director Jonathan Adkins. “The alarm bells continue to sound on this issue; it’s clear we need to fortify our collective efforts to protect pedestrians and reverse the trend.” 

Pedestrians are projected to account for 16 percent of all traffic deaths in 2018, compared to 12 percent in 2008. While 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.

A number of trends offer insight into the many causes behind the rise in pedestrian fatalities:

  • More walking has increased exposure, as one survey1estimated 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
  • Finally, 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. 

The full report, including state-by-state data and infographics, is available at ghsa.org/resources/Pedestrians19.

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