- An average of nearly 18 pedestrians were killed each day by motor vehicles in the United States in 2020 — a total of 6,529 people, up 4.5% from 2019’s numbers, according to the annual Dangerous by Design report released Tuesday by Smart Growth America.
- Sun Belt states and cities were the most dangerous places for pedestrians, the report found. It also revealed that Black pedestrians were twice as likely to be hit and killed as White pedestrians.
- The 10 deadliest states for pedestrians were, in order, New Mexico, Florida, South Carolina, Arizona, Delaware, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, Georgia, and California.
“Pedestrian fatalities are up a staggering 62% since they began steadily rising in 2009,” said Beth Osborne, director of Transportation for America at Smart Growth America, speaking at a press conference Monday.
Florida’s Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach area was the metro region with the highest pedestrian fatality rate in 2020, followed by Albuquerque, New Mexico; Memphis, Tennessee; and the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater area in Florida. “Comparing the average fatality rate over the past five years, 2016 to 2020, with the previous five years, 81 metro areas got worse,” Osborne said.
“Unfortunately, there really are no examples in this country of cities doing great” on improving pedestrian safety, Osborne said. But “cities with higher historic walking rates had much lower increases in pedestrian fatality rates,” she noted.
The preponderance of Sun Belt cities and states on this list is no surprise, Osborne said. “Many of these metro areas grew and developed after automobile ownership was already widespread. So they’re built at a car-driving scale, where high-speed vehicle travel has been the priority in development.”
Just four states — New York, North Dakota, Massachusetts and Montana — plus the District of Columbia saw a decrease in fatality rates for the past five years (2016-20) compared with the five previous years (2011-15). But Osborne put things in perspective: “Being amongst the safest of the cities or states in the United States of America still means you are among the most dangerous in the world.”
The report also identified disparities by race, age and neighborhood income. Hispanic, Black and Native American pedestrians were all more likely to be killed by motor vehicles than White pedestrians. People walking in areas with a median household income below $44,000 also died at a higher-than-average rate. These areas “are less likely to have sidewalks, marked crosswalks, and street design to support safer, slower speeds,” the report states.
Pedestrians between the ages of 50 and 65 and those over age 75 were also more likely to be killed.
Non-interstate arterial highways were the location of 60% of all 2020 pedestrian deaths, even though they are just 15% of all roadways, Osborne said. Focusing on fixing these roads, she said, could make a big difference in reducing pedestrian fatalities.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that more than 7,300 pedestrians died in motor vehicle accidents in 2021.
“Other countries have tackled these problems and have addressed it,” Osborne said. “We should not accept this as inevitable.”