Why Are Pedestrian Fatalities On The Rise?

Table of Contents

  1. Exposure
  2. Traffic Density
  3. Smartphones
  4. Sport Utility Vehicles
  5. Older Pedestrians
  6. Knowing Is Half The Battle

The number of pedestrians killed in traffic in the U.S. is as high as it’s been in nearly thirty years.

There has been an alarming rise in the number of people killed in traffic accidents in recent years.

It’s estimated that 6,227 pedestrians were killed in traffic in 2018, according to a study from the Governors Highway Safety Association.

The year before there were just 4,109 pedestrians killed in traffic.

So what’s causing the rise in fatalities?

There really isn’t a simple, straightforward answer, and it’s likely a combination of factors.

In the article below, we will discuss a few of the factors that are likely contributing to the elevated number of pedestrian deaths.


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Exposure has to be considered when looking at the elevated numbers.

The simple fact that there are more pedestrians can increase the number of fatalities, even if everything else stays the same.

The increased population aline should be a factor in pedestrian fatalities.

But, population size isn’t the only exposure factor.

You also need to consider the amount of vehicles we have on the road.

The booming economy over the last ten or so years has likely increased the number of cars on the road, especially for younger drivers.

Lower gas prices and longer commutes also keep people on the road longer.

So, more people plus more cars and longer commutes could equal more pedestrian deaths.

Traffic Density

If you have a long commute, you know how bad traffic can be.

The increase in traffic placers higher demands on drivers.

Situational awareness becomes difficult because drivers and pedestrians have to continually switch their focus from one thing to another.

Drivers will always focus their attention on other vehicles as opposed to pedestrians as they decide what to give their attention to.

Other vehicles are bigger, larger, and a much greater hazard to drivers than a pedestrian is. So, drivers will always be concerned with avoiding other drivers first.

The presence of other vehicles also blocks sightlines, making finding pedestrians even more difficult.

After all of that, drivers also have to worry about cyclists.

There are only so many things drivers can focus on at one time, and pedestrians tend to be lower on the list for them.

Drivers have to be alert for other vehicles, motorcycles, cyclists, pedestrians, signs, signals, and possible physical obstructions like potholes or downed limbs, and sometimes they miss something.

Unfortunately, sometimes the “something” they miss is the pedestrian.

Because drivers have to worry about so much, they sometimes make assumptions.

They assume that cyclists will stay in the bike lane, and pedestrians are only going to cross at crosswalks and walk on the sidewalk.

If you’re a pedestrian that decides to cross somewhere other than a crosswalk or walk on the road where there is no sidewalk, you are putting yourself at risk.


The thing that distracts people more than any other thing is the smartphone.

Cell phone usage has increased tremendously over the last two decades, but pedestrian fatalities remained pretty steady.

The uptick in fatalities corresponds with the adoption of smartphones and the fact that our phones are so much more than phones now.

Your smartphone encourages you to look away from the road and answer that text or read that email.

Data is just beginning to come in, but it’s showing that the use of smartphones by pedestrians and drivers is likely a significant factor in the rise of pedestrian fatalities.

Cars are also becoming more sophisticated, coming equipped with more complex controls.

These extra buttons are likely adding to the list of distractions drivers have as well.

Sport Utility Vehicles

Sport Utility Vehicles, or SUVs, are likely a significant contributor to the rise in pedestrian deaths simply due to their size.

A vehicle-pedestrian crash is 50% more likely to end in a fatality if the vehicle is an SUV or something similar.

SUVs have higher bumpers and flat fronts, so the point of contact on pedestrians is higher up on the body, not just with the legs.

They can also cause collisions indirectly by blocking the view of other drivers who can’t see the pedestrians ahead of them.

Older Pedestrians

As the population ages, so does the age of the pedestrians.

Older pedestrians are frailer and more likely to suffer severe injury or death in a collision.

So, the increase of older pedestrians would naturally lead to a rise in pedestrian fatalities.

Because of slower walking speeds, older pedestrians are especially at risk on roads that take longer to cross, especially if they choose not to use a crosswalk.

There’s also an increasing number of, believe it or not, bicyclists killing elderly pedestrians.

It’s still relatively rare now, but as the population continues to age and bicycles continue to get faster and more advanced, it might become more common in the future.

Knowing Is Half The Battle

Above are just a few of the factors that could be contributing to the rise in pedestrian fatalities.

As a driver or a pedestrian, the best thing to do to prevent pedestrian fatalities is to know what’s causing them.

If you or someone you know has been involved in an accident as a pedestrian, the first thing you need to do is reach out to a lawyer.

The legal system can be intimidating, but an experienced attorney will hold your hand through the entire process and make sure you get the compensation you deserve.

If you’re ready to get started today, contact the lawyers at The Brown Firm.

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