While the number of people killed riding in cars and other vehicles has remained at the same level, the number of pedestrian deaths has increased by more than 50% over the past 10 years, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA).

After analyzing traffic data, the agency estimates that 6,590 pedestrians were killed in the United States in 2019, which was a 5% increase over the year before and the most since the late 1980s.

Many causes are cited for a disturbing increase

The GHSA points to a long list of contributing factors for the significant rise in pedestrian fatalities, which began in 2009 and now accounts for 17% of all traffic deaths. The agency cites:

  • An increase in cellphone use
  • A rise in distracted drivers
  • Drunk drivers and pedestrians
  • Americans buying larger and heavier SUVs
  • Road designs that fail to include protections for pedestrians
  • More people are walking later at night

California saw a double-digit rise in pedestrian deaths

Five states, including California, account for nearly half – 47% – of all pedestrian fatalities. In 2019, the Golden State had the most deaths of any state with 519, a 12% increase over the 464 reported in 2018. The other states in the top five are:

  • Florida – 368
  • Texas – 313
  • New York – 120
  • Georgia – 116

Time of day and road types are key factors

The GHSA report shows 75% of all pedestrian fatalities happen after dark. Additionally, the number of nighttime deaths has risen by 67% since 2009, while daytime fatalities increased by 16% during the same period.

Nearly six out of 10 of these crashes happen away from interstate highways, such as on multilane roads or city streets that require pedestrians to cross busy roadways, and most fatalities occur at non-intersection locations.

States are urged to address pedestrian safety

The GHSA says there is a lack of a national safety strategy for protecting pedestrians, but the group says many states are stepping up education efforts to address the risks. In California, coordinated efforts such as Vision Zero and the Safe Routes to School campaigns create community-based organizations dedicated to reducing and preventing injuries and fatalities among all vulnerable road users.

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