More than 7,500 pedestrians were killed in U.S. traffic accidents in 2022, according to a data analysis released today by the Governors Highway Safety Association, with the number of deaths increasing by 1% from 2021. While the growth rate has declined sharply from the 13% jump in pedestrian fatalities from 2020 to 2021, annual pedestrian deaths rose 77% from 2010 to 2021.
“The shocking thing is, nothing seems to be changing,” said Russ Martin, senior director of policy and government relations at GHSA, in an interview. “We’re still considering the same contributing factors that are driving these trends, and it seems like we’re not really making progress.”
Some states with the largest populations and land areas had the most deaths, according to preliminary data from state highway safety offices. California recorded the highest number of pedestrian deaths in 2022, with 1,100 killed, while Florida and Texas each had more than 800 fatalities. All three had higher death rates per capita than the national average. Arizona, Oregon and Virginia saw the largest increases in pedestrian deaths from 2021 to 2022.
Most pedestrian fatalities happen in urban areas, the report says. Looking at the 10 largest U.S. cities by population, Houston, Phoenix and San Diego showed sharp increases in pedestrian fatalities from 2020 to 2021.
Nighttime is the most dangerous time of day for pedestrians, according to the GHSA report, with 77% of 2021’s fatal accidents occurring in the dark. Nighttime pedestrian fatalities jumped 86% from 2010 to 2021, according to the GHSA. Other factors associated with pedestrian deaths the group cited include alcohol impairment for both drivers and pedestrians and the absence of sidewalks.
The report also reveals the inequities among pedestrian victims. “We do see the disproportionate impact of people of color being overrepresented in pedestrian deaths,” said Martin. Between 2018 and 2020, the proportion of deaths for pedestrians identified as non-Hispanic Black and Hispanic grew while the proportion identified as non-Hispanic White declined.
In another report issued today, StreetLight Data looked at the role speed plays in pedestrian fatalities. A pedestrian is twice as likely to be killed by a car traveling 30 mph as by one traveling at 20 mph, the report states. The report names StreetLight Data’s top 30 cities for safe speed according to their average speed on roads with significant pedestrian traffic. New York City was No. 1, with 84% of roads having average speeds under 25 mph, followed by Washington, San Francisco, Boston and Chicago.
Of the 30 cities identified, the five with the lowest proportion of roads with average speeds under 25 mph were Memphis, Tennessee; Las Vegas; Jacksonville, Florida; Fort Worth, Texas; and Phoenix. “These roadways may have been designed to prioritize vehicle travel — the faster, the better — with limited consideration for the negative outcomes for those outside the vehicle,” the report states.
The GHSA report notes vehicle size and weight also factor into the likelihood of a pedestrian surviving a crash: “A general rule is the larger and heavier the vehicle, the lower the chances a person on foot will survive a crash.” SUVs and pickup trucks were involved in nearly 40% of pedestrian deaths in 2021, according to the GHSA report.
To lessen the toll of pedestrian fatalities, GHSA recommends that communities follow the Safe System approach, which acknowledges that humans make mistakes and reducing deaths requires safer vehicles, safer speeds, safer roads, careful drivers and other road users and good post-crash medical care.
“We need every kind of countermeasure that’s available to us,” said Martin. “Whether it is improving infrastructure to separate pedestrians from vehicle traffic, whether it’s traffic enforcement to address dangerous driving behavior that’s out there like speeding, distracted driving [or] impaired driving.”
GHSA’s report looked at preliminary data from state highway safety offices and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System.