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U.S. Pedestrian Death Rates Reach 30-Year High

A crosswalk on a busy street that protects pedestrians.

Take caution when crossing the street; this advice couldn’t come at a better time. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, pedestrian fatalities have reached a thirty-year high. In 2008, there were 4,114 pedestrian deaths, and this past year, 6,277 fatalities were recorded, indicating over a 50% increase in ten years. Pedestrian deaths represented 12% of all vehicle-related deaths in 2008, whereas they accounted for 16% of deaths in 2018.

Fatality Trends

Although pedestrian deaths during the daytime have remained relatively consistent over the past ten years (1,145 in 2008 and 1,267 in 2017), the number of fatalities at nighttime have increased dramatically. From 2008 to 2017, pedestrian deaths at night increased from 3,059 to 4,440, and 90% of all pedestrian fatalities happened at night. 

Aside from time of day, the location of the incidents differs as well. In 2017, fatalities occurred on local streets (35%), state highways (25%), U.S. highways (16%), interstates (10%), and county roads (8%). Additionally, 26% of pedestrian deaths occurred at or near an intersection, whereas 72% did not occur near an intersection. 

Unfortunately, pedestrian and/or driver intoxication plays a significant role in pedestrian fatalities. In 2017, intoxication was found in nearly 50% of all death incidents. A study was conducted in which all pedestrian cases that involved at least one intoxicated individual (the pedestrian or the driver had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 g/dL or higher) were analyzed. The majority of the deceased pedestrians had an illegal BAC, whereas only 17% of drivers had this level. Clearly, if you choose to drink and you plan on walking home, you need to be extremely cautious.  

Federal regulators are working to determine the cause of rising pedestrian fatalities. A possible contributing factor could be the increase in popularity of larger SUVs and trucks, which can cause more violent accidents. In addition, another potential cause could be the rise in distracted driving and walking, both of which usually involve cell phones. During the period of 2009-2017, the number of pedestrian fatalities that involved cell phone use increased more than four times, and use of wireless data during the incidents increased by more than 4,000%. 

New Laws to Promote Safe Traveling

Legislators on the state level are now taking action to promote pedestrian safety. For example, Tennessee has implemented laws to ensure pedestrians follow traffic-control signals more frequently. Another law requires pedestrians crossing outside of a crosswalk to yield to all vehicles. The state also enacted several other laws that emphasis the importance of following street rules. Motorists also must be cautious when approaching crosswalks, and they must always yield to pedestrians. Other states are following suit and attempting to implement stricter pedestrian laws. 

If you or someone you know have been in a car accident, check out our website at for a free case evaluation. We want to help you get the money you deserve.


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