In 2018, the number of pedestrians killed on United States roads reached an all-time high. In Illinois, pedestrian deaths rose by 19% over deaths in 2017.
Pedestrian Fatalities Reach Record Numbers
Over the past few years, pedestrian fatalities across the country have increased significantly. Between 2008 and 2017, pedestrian deaths rose by 35%, from 4,414 deaths to 5,977 deaths. Most pedestrian fatalities were caused by motor vehicle crashes where pedestrians were caught in the path of the vehicle or run down by an out-of-control or impaired driver.
A recent study by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) was conducted in all 50 states. In the first half of 2018, there was an alarming rise in pedestrian fatalities, even though the number of overall traffic deaths dropped by six%. Pedestrian deaths in 2018 rose by 3% over numbers in the first half of 2017. The GHSA study revealed the largest increase in pedestrian fatalities since 1990.
Factors used in the GHSA study included:
- Pedestrian traffic
- Population growth
- Demographic changes
- Economic conditions
- Weather conditions
- Traffic conditions
The study also looked vehicle types, such as compact cars, luxury sedans, SUVs, and pickup trucks. Although the majority of pedestrian fatalities were caused by passenger cars, fatalities caused by larger SUVs rose by 50% between 2013 and 2017.
Within the 50 states, five states – Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, and Texas – accounted for almost half of all pedestrian deaths in the country in 2018. New Mexico had the highest pedestrian fatality rate, while New Hampshire had the lowest. In Illinois, there were 60 pedestrian deaths in 2017, but that number jumped to 80 in the first six months of 2018, an increase of 19% in the first half of the year.
Injury and Fatality Risk Factors
The GHSA study shows that certain conditions increase the likelihood of pedestrian injuries and fatalities. The most prominent risk factors include location, area population, type of vehicle, light levels, and driver impairment.
The majority of pedestrian injuries and fatalities occur on local streets. State highways and interstates account for fewer numbers of pedestrian deaths, approximately 10%. Statistics show that most pedestrian fatalities occurring on interstates are the result of motorists hitting people who are standing outside of their vehicles due to car accidents or mechanical problems. Illinois pedestrian accident lawyers see a large number of hit-and-run accidents on interstates where people die because motorists do not stop.
Populated areas pose increased risks of traffic accidents, as well as pedestrian injuries and fatalities. Pedestrian accident lawyers in busy urban areas, like Chicago, often see pedestrians who are struck by vehicles in crosswalks, intersections, parking lots, and shopping centers. In congested areas, drivers are often distracted by traffic signals and other cars, so they don’t always see pedestrians until it’s too late to slow down or stop.
Type of Vehicle
Most pedestrian fatalities, 42%, are caused by single-vehicle crashes involving passenger vehicles. In 2017, there were 2,243 pedestrians killed by passenger cars involved in crashes with guardrails, stop signs, parked cars, buildings, and other objects where pedestrians were nearby. SUVs accounted for 1,080 deaths, pickup trucks 926 deaths, large trucks 290 deaths, and passenger vans 263 deaths.
Light levels play a significant role in pedestrian injuries and fatalities. Based on national statistics, about 75% of pedestrian fatalities occurred after dark in 2017. Whether walking on city sidewalks, in crosswalks, or along rural roads, walking after dark increases the chance of pedestrian injuries and deaths by as much as 50%.
Alcohol and/or drug impairment in both drivers and pedestrians are responsible for almost half of pedestrian fatalities. In 2017, 32% of pedestrian deaths involved blood alcohol concentrations (BAC) among drivers or pedestrians of 0.08 or higher which impair reaction times, decision making, and critical judgment skills. While the highest number of fatally injured impaired drivers are between the ages of 21-24, the highest number of fatally injured impaired pedestrians are in the 45-54 age group.
Over the last decade, the Federal Highway Administration and many states and cities have been working diligently to increase pedestrian safety. Many states have established pedestrian safety action plans to promote safety and reduce pedestrian deaths. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has also set up educational programs and traffic enforcement programs that address pedestrian safety in cities with large pedestrian populations.
A new national safety program, The FAST Act, has established a fund of $70 million that will be paid out annually through 2020 to eligible states to decrease pedestrian and bicyclists crash fatalities. NHTSA awarded $14 million to 23 states in 2018 and grants to 25 states in 2019. Any state with pedestrian and/or bicyclists fatalities that exceed 15% of total crash fatalities is eligible for safety awards.