- Pedestrian and cyclist deaths climbed in 2018, according to data released Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Transportation's (USDOT) National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). According to the administration's data, pedestrian deaths totaled 6,283, an increase of 3.4% and a record high since 1990, while deaths of those on pedal-powered bikes rose by 6.3% to 857.
- NHTSA said most pedestrian fatalities (76%) occurred after dark, with 38% of pedestrians having some alcohol in their systems. The administration also said 74% of pedestrian deaths did not happen at intersections. Meanwhile, of those killed on two wheels, 50% happened after dark, with 60% outside of intersections. NHTSA added that 26% had some alcohol in their systems.
- Overall, road deaths decreased by just over 2.4% from 37,473 in 2017 to 36,560 in 2018, and are projected to have fallen even further in the first half of 2019. In a statement, acting NHTSA administrator James Owens attributed the trend to newer vehicles being safer and having more advanced technologies to mitigate the worst impacts of crashes.
News of the overall decrease in road deaths is encouraging as the data appears to suggest the problem is slowly getting under control compared to earlier this year, but pedestrian fatalities continue to be an issue. Comparing this data to that of the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), the two numbers for 2018 pedestrian fatalities are more or less in sync.
As cities wrestle with how to lower their pedestrian fatality rates, an increasing number of cities are turning to Complete Streets policies which look to make streets safer for all users, including pedestrians and bicyclists.
The National Complete Streets Coalition (NCSC) recognized 10 communities earlier this year for having effective policies, although leaders involved in their planning recognized that it can be hard to get such initiatives off the ground. During an NCSC webinar, city leaders said collaboration across departments is key, as well as ensuring policies adapt to each community’s needs.
And the Complete Streets push went national in July with the introduction of the Complete Streets Act, bicameral legislation introduced by U.S. Sen. Edward Markey, D-MA, and Rep. Steve Cohen, D-TN. The bill would require states to set aside 5% of federal highway funding for a grant program that would fund Complete Streets projects and has been met with enthusiasm by advocates, although it faces an uphill climb to get traction in the political minefield of Congress.
While cities are also turning to Vision Zero to help eliminate road fatalities, NHTSA pledged to do more to encourage pedestrian and bicyclist safety, including an upgrade to the New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) and cross-departmental work with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).
If pedestrian deaths are to come down further, governments at all levels will need to collaborate with those in the private sector, with technology seen as one way to curb what Jeff Klei, president of tire company Continental, North America, described as a "public health crisis" of road deaths earlier this year.