U.S. Pedestrian Deaths are at their Highest Level in Three Decades

While the number of US fatalities due to roadway crashes continues to decrease, American pedestrians are dying at their highest rate in 30 years.

According to a new report by the Wall Street Journal, an estimated 6,590 pedestrians were killed by motor-vehicle crashes in 2019, slightly over 300 more deaths than in 2018. Richard Retting, a contributor to this analysis, identified the following as possible factors.

• An uptick in smartphone-related distraction by drivers and pedestrians
• Inadequate roadway lighting and crossing mechanisms
• The presence of a large number of SUVs
• Impairment caused by drugs and alcohol by both drivers and pedestrians

While the number of pedestrian deaths rose by 50% from 2009 to 2018, all other crash-related mortalities saw an increase of only 2%. During the same time frame, the number of pedestrians killed at night jumped by 67% compared to the 16% rise of deaths during the day. Pedestrians are more likely to be killed on busier multilane roads and are less likely to be hit at intersections than midblock. Richard Retting suggests that municipalities consider installing better lighting as well as beacons that would alert drivers of the pedestrians’ presence.

TPRS is located in the District of Columbia. Our Mayor Muriel Bowser recently announced a permanent lowering of the default speed limit on local roads from 25 MPH to 20 MPH. Due to the current public health crisis caused by COVID-19, the District Department of Transportation has also installed “DC Slow Streets”, streets restricted to local traffic only and with speed limits of 15 MPH, to aid residents who are “traveling to and from essential businesses, essential jobs, and families (who) are exercising to support overall physical and mental health during the pandemic.” Studies will have to be performed to discover whether or not these ordinances help decrease pedestrian deaths within the District’s boundaries.

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