While fatalities from traffic accidents have decreased 2.4% since 2017, a new report suggests that the number of deaths among pedestrians and cyclists are actually increasing nationwide.
New vehicle technology has helped make roads safer for drivers and passengers, but roads seem to be increasingly dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists, according to data recently released by federal regulators.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) indicated this week that more pedestrians died in traffic accidents last year than at any other time over the past 30 years, based on 2018 highway crash fatality data compiled using NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System.
Overall, there was a 2.4% decrease in vehicle deaths in the second consecutive year of decreases. The number of vehicle fatalities dropped by more than 900.
The report indicated fatalities among children under 14 decreased by 10%, fatalities involving alcohol impaired drivers decreased by 3.6%, speeding related fatalities decreased by 5.7%, and motorcycle fatalities also decreased by 4.7%.
The new report also included vehicle fatality estimates for the first half of 2019. Fatalities are projected to continue to decrease. So far, data indicates a decrease of 3% compared to the same period in 2018.
“This is encouraging news, but still far too many perished or were injured, and nearly all crashes are preventable, so much more work remains to be done to make America’s roads safer for everyone,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.
Despite the overall decrease in traffic-related vehicle fatalities, more pedestrians and cyclists were killed in vehicle accidents in 2018 than in 2017.
Fatalities among pedestrians increased by 3% and by 6% among bicyclists. The report found that 53% more pedestrians were killed in traffic related accidents last year than a decade ago in 2009.
Researchers indicat that more pedestrians were likely to die if the accident occurred after dark. More than one-third of pedestrian traffic deaths involved alcohol, and 74% of fatalities did not occur at an intersection. Those accidents often occurred in the middle of the street.
Similarly, roughly half of fatalities involving cyclists occurred at night. One-quarter of cyclist fatalities involved alcohol and more than half occurred outside of intersections.
In response to the findings, Consumer Reports highlighted the need for new vehicle technologies to help keep pedestrians and cyclists safe. The consumer advocacy group emphasized the need for pedestrian detection technology and low-speed emergency braking technology as standard safety equipment on all new vehicles to help prevent fatalities.
While that type of technology may help reduce some vehicle related deaths, a study published earlier this month indicated emergency braking technology and pedestrian detection systems often fail at night or in bad weather.
The report indicated pedestrian detection capabilities are inconsistent and virtually nonexistent at night and fail to reduce the risk of pedestrian involved accidents at night. This seems born out in the new NHTSA report, which indicates the majority of pedestrian and cyclist involved fatalities occur at night.