Pedestrian Traffic Fatalities Remain Over 14% Higher Than Pre-Pandemic Rates: Report

Researchers indicate better traffic enforcement and infrastructure are needed to prevent pedestrian traffic fatalities, which remain high after spiking during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A new report warns that the number of pedestrian traffic fatalities has remained stubbornly high nationwide since the COVID pandemic, highlighting the need for more stringent traffic enforcement throughout the U.S.

The pedestrian traffic fatalities report was released this month by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), using data from January through June 2023, as part of the agency’s annual survey from the State Highway Safety Offices (SHSOs) across the country.

The GHSA report warns that a sharp decline in traffic enforcement nationwide since 2020 has allowed dangerous driving behaviors to increase and become a pervasive problem, including speeding, impaired driving and other activities known to increase risks for pedestrians on U.S. roadways.

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According to the report, there were 3,373 pedestrian traffic deaths in the first half of 2023; representing a 4% decrease from the previous year. However, that number is still 14% higher than in 2019, with fatalities rising much faster than population growth.

While the overall decline is a positive development, the trend still indicates a significant increase in pedestrian fatalities compared to pre-pandemic years.

Many of the fatalities occurred in states in the Sun Belt, characterized by warmer climates that encourage more walking, and urban areas designed around cars, the report indicates.

Researchers determined that pedestrian traffic fatalities could be reduced by improving infrastructure, lowering vehicle speeds, and reducing certain dangerous driving behaviors. The GHSA will further detail these strategies in an upcoming report.

Pedestrian Accident Trends

The report comes about a year after the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) called for widespread roadway improvements to provide a safer environment for young pedestrians, after recent data showed that pedestrian roadway deaths have increased in recent years, especially among children.

Pediatric health experts point to several factors for this increase, including higher speed patterns in residential areas, more distracted driving due to smart phones, and the popularity of large frame, high front end vehicles like SUVs, which increase the risk of head and upper body injuries in cyclist and pedestrian accidents.

SUVs and other larger vehicles have become more popular in recent years, are more likely to kill a pedestrian due to the height of front-end hoods, because they are more in line with a pedestrian’s upper body, which makes them more likely to contact the head or torso in a collision, according to prior research. Because larger vehicles with higher hoods tend to sit higher up than smaller vehicles, they are also more likely to push the pedestrian underneath the vehicle and cause significant or fatal injuries.

Additionally, a recent study published by The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) highlighted a concerning increase in pedestrian injuries due to auto accidents. The report found that out of approximately 301 million emergency department visits, there were 137,325 cases related to pedestrian injuries, making up an overall proportion of 45.62 pedestrian injury visits per 100,000 total emergency department visits.


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