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- The Governors Highway Safety Administration calculates that there were 6590 pedestrian fatalities in 2019 after making a preliminary analysis of the available data.
- If that estimate holds when numbers are released later this year, that would mark a 60 percent increase in fatalities since 2009.
- Meanwhile, all other traffic deaths only rose 2 percent between 2009 and 2018.
Rising numbers of pedestrian deaths have garnered increasing attention across the country, spurring Vision Zero programs—a road-safety initiative aimed at bringing pedestrian fatalities to zero—to be adopted and municipalities to reconsider how cars and people interact on streets.
Estimates of 2019 pedestrian fatalities from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) reveal that, through last year, the upward trend of deaths has continued. In 2019, according to GHSA, pedestrian deaths were up 5 percent compared to the year prior, with 6590 pedestrians killed, the highest number since 1988. That total translates to 2.0 deaths per 100,000 people, which is the highest since 1997.
The data currently reported is through June 2019, and GHSA doesn’t make predictions for state-by-state data. Nonetheless, the data reveals the state-level increases in pedestrian fatalities through the first half of the year, compared to the same time frame in 2018. Five states—California, Arizona, Texas, Georgia, and Florida—accounted for 47 percent of pedestrian deaths, yet these states make up 33 percent of the U.S. population.
Through June 2019, New Mexico, Hawaii, and Florida had the three highest fatality rates per 100,000 people. On the other hand, Wisconsin, Idaho, and Vermont had the three lowest fatality rates.
Since 2009, pedestrian fatalities have consistently grown year over year after a nearly steady decrease since 1988. A decade ago, in 2009, annual deaths were at 4109. Through 2018, the most recent year with complete data, there has been a 53 percent increase in pedestrian deaths. The GHSA’s calculated total of 6590 deaths would mean that there would have been a 60 percent increase from 2009 through the end of 2019.
That being said, the Federal Highway Administration reported that motor vehicle travel increased 0.8 percent in the first half of 2019 as compared to the same period in 2018.
The association cites a number of possible reasons for the continuing increase in deaths, including the growing popularity of light trucks and SUVs, warmer weather, and an increase in cellphone use while driving. The study notes that in 2009, 48 percent of new vehicle sales were light trucks (which includes SUVs), and in 2018, that number had risen to 69 percent. It also says pedestrians who are struck by a large SUV are twice as likely to die as those struck by a car.
Aside from the increase in pedestrian fatalities, the number of all other traffic deaths has nearly remained steady, rising only 2 percent in the past decade. Contributing to that is the increase in vehicle safety; the number of passenger-vehicle occupants dying in 2018 was 25 percent lower than in 1975.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will make complete data on traffic deaths available later this year.