U.S. Pedestrian Deaths Hit Record-Breaking High

More pedestrians were killed by vehicles in the United States last year than in any year of the past forty.

By Douglas Helm | Updated

pedestrian deaths

Pedestrians being hit and killed by vehicles has reached a depressing 40-year high. According to NPR, over 7,500 pedestrians were killed by moving vehicles last year. Which roughly approximates to 20 pedestrian deaths per day.

Additionally, it’s likely that this pedestrian death count is even higher since Oklahoma was unable to submit data due to technical difficulties. These deaths have been climbing ever since 2010 due to a rise in SUVs (which are more dangerous to pedestrians) on the road and unsafe infrastructure.

Deaths also saw a big surge during the pandemic when people were driving faster and more distracted due to the empty roads.

Despite the pandemic no longer being considered a public health emergency, pedestrian deaths have continued to surge and led to this all-time high record. The states who tend to have the highest numbers are states below the Sun Belt such as New Mexico, Arizona, and Florida.

New Mexico was ranked at the top of the list as the most dangerous state for pedestrians.

While there’s no hard data as to why these Sun Belt states have more pedestrian deaths, there are some theories. One theory is that these states are bigger than average and don’t have dense, walkable communities, which means there are more people on the road.

Another possibility is that states with warmer weather may lead to more people wanting to be outside and on the road.

However, these are just theories, and they’re not necessarily solutions to the problem. There are some solutions being worked on that could mitigate risks to pedestrians and hopefully lead to much fewer pedestrian deaths. These solutions are primarily in the form of “traffic calming” measures.

Peter Norton, a professor at the University of Virginia, told NPR about some traffic calming measures that could potentially help with pedestrian deaths. One solution is implementing more sharp corners on roads instead of gradual curves since this causes drivers to slow down and be more aware during their turns.

pedestrian deaths

Other solutions include making roads more pedestrian-friendly by introducing pedestrian islands and sidewalk bulb-outs.

Speed and red light cameras can also help to curb speeding and encourage drivers to be more aware, but speed limits would also need to be enforced to be effective and lessen pedestrian deaths. Another potential avenue for increasing driver awareness is to introduce more bike lanes, which would also help make communities more commute-friendly to people who don’t own vehicles.

The Governors Highway Safety Association also outlined some measures that communities at the local and regional levels could take to help reduce pedestrian deaths. For instance, police stations in Hawaii would station additional officers in areas known for crashes or high volumes of foot traffic to crack down on reckless driving.

Another example is community members in Idado receiving ‘walkability audits’ they could fill out to make their communities and neighborhoods safer and more walkable.

Hopefully, we see some of these measures implemented at a wider level soon. Setting a 40-year high for pedestrian deaths is something that likely no one wants to repeat. If these solutions so measurable results, it would be nice to see some bipartisan support to make roads safer for people.