In a disturbing trend, the Governor’s Highway Safety Association (GHSA) expects to find a 10% increase in pedestrian fatalities in 2015 according to preliminary data. This represents the largest increase since such data collection began in 1975, which has ranged from a 10.5% decrease to an 8.1% increase.
In the annual GHSA Spotlight on Highway Safety Report authored by Richard Retting and Dr. Heather Rothenberg of Sam Schwartz Consulting, using preliminary data reported by all 50 states’ highway safety agencies and Washington, DC, it appears that 2015 saw an estimated 10% increase in pedestrian fatalities compared to 2014.
“We are projecting the largest year-to-year increase in pedestrian fatalities since national records have been kept, and therefore we are quite alarmed,” said Retting, “Pedestrian safety is clearly a growing problem across the country. It is important to understand the data underlying these crashes so states and localities can apply the right mix of engineering, education and enforcement to counteract this troubling trend.”
Data from the first 6 months of 2015 (2,368 fatalities) compared to corresponding data from 2014 (2,232 fatalities) – adjusted for under-reporting associated with preliminary data – shows the approximate 10% increase. 21 states reported a decrease, 26 states and the District of Columbia reported an increase and 3 states showed no change with California, Florida, New York, and Texas accounting for 42% of all pedestrian deaths. States with the highest fatality rate per 100,000 people are more diverse, with the 2014 list including Arizona, Delaware, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, and South Carolina.
Furthermore, pedestrians are now accounting for a higher percentage of all motor vehicle crash-related deaths than they were a decade ago – nearly 15% compared to 11% in 2005.
What is contributing to this spike in pedestrian tragedy? Speculation ranges from increased motor vehicle traffic due to improved economic conditions and lower gas prices to increased cell phone usage by drivers and walkers alike. Additionally, driver and passenger deaths are decreasing as vehicles become safer. Furthermore, people are walking more frequently for health, environmental or economic reasons.
This data certainly emphasizes the need for safe, reliable, and updated pedestrian infrastructure. Safe, walkable, well-lit pathways and signage will help ensure that pedestrians and drivers both understand the rules of the road. Especially in large states with high metropolitan centers like New York and California. Education and awareness of the growing problem is essential.
States were asked to report examples and strategies for reducing pedestrian deaths. Results included strict traffic enforcement, public service campaigns, identifying and updating high-risk zones, community pedestrian assessments, road audits, and partnerships with universities or other organizations. Or maybe something such as this.
“GHSA and our member states will continue to make pedestrian safety a priority,” said Jonathan Adkins, GHSA Executive Director. “The recently passed federal surface transportation bill, the FAST Act, will give states more resources and flexibility to address their most pressing pedestrian safety problems. We look forward to working with NHTSA and our other partners to drive down these numbers and move toward zero deaths.”