2020 Could Set Records for Pedestrian Fatality Rates

The novel coronavirus wasn't the only public health risk spreading around the United States in 2020.

Read Time: 2 minutes

March 25, 2021, 8:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


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The latest edition of the annual "Spotlight on Highway Safety" report from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) projects that the pedestrian fatality rate in the United States rose 20% in the first six months of 2020. The projections are based on preliminary data provided by state highway safety offices in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

"If this troubling pattern continues for the second half of the year as many traffic safety experts fear, 2020 is projected to have the largest ever annual increase in the U.S. pedestrian fatality rate per mile driven," according to a press release announcing the report.

The press release credits the record increase in pedestrian fatality rate on the increasing amount of speeding, distracted and impaired driving, and other dangerous driving behaviors during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report also finds that pedestrian fatalities account for a growing portion of the traffic fatalities on U.S. streets and roads. "The GHSA report also examines 2019 data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), finding that pedestrians accounted for 17% of all traffic deaths in 2019, compared to 13% in 2010," according to the press release. "While pedestrian deaths have risen by 46% over the past decade, the number of all other traffic deaths has increased by only 5%."

The tragedy also has disproportionate impacts for Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) pedestrians, according to the report: "Drivers struck and killed a larger proportion of Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) traveling on foot than expected based on their respective share of the population, while people on foot classified as white/non-Hispanic accounted for a considerably smaller proportion based on population. This reinforces the need for racial equity to be a centerpiece of comprehensive pedestrian safety action plans."

A Twitter thread by Peter Flax pulls out some of the alarming lowlights from the report.

The news isn't entirely tragic: the report identified 20 states and the District of Columbia as making progress on pedestrian safety, and nine states even report double-digit decreases in the number of pedestrians killed by drivers. The 2019 version of the same report found similarly alarming and record-breaking pedestrian safety data, and now it seems like the pandemic only exacerbated the pedestrian safety trends already obvious in the country.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021 in Governors Highway Safety Association

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