According to estimates compiled by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), an average of 20 pedestrians were hit and killed by motorists every day in the United States last year. This equates to a total of 7,485 people for the year. For those who keep a grim track of such statistics, last year represents the highest number of pedestrian deaths recorded in the last four decades. You have to go back to 1982 to find a year with more pedestrian deaths than 2021. That’s 12% more than last year, a statistic that killed an additional 774 people in 2021 compared to 2020.
Statistics lovers will also notice that the death rate of mile-driven pedestrians has also increased. Preliminary data from the GHSA indicate that in 2021, 2.32 pedestrian deaths per billion miles traveled. Which is slightly higher than last year – although last year’s numbers were an inconsistency due to the ongoing Covid-19 epidemic – and “much higher than the pre-wall. Epidemic average 1.9.” In 2021, the death rate per 100,000 people increased similarly, from 2.02 in the previous year to 2.26.
Worryingly, the report includes data analyzed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration which indicates that “the percentage of speeding pedestrian accidents involving children aged 15 and under has more than doubled in the previous three years.” The report further found that “black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) have been over-represented in pedestrian accidents considering their share of the population.”
Speed has been cited as a major contributing factor to the increasing number of pedestrian deaths, along with confused driving and driver or pedestrian obstruction. According to the GHSA, “the faster a vehicle travels, the faster the average risk of death for pedestrians increases, with speeds ranging from 10% to 23 mph to 90% to 58 mph.”
Earlier this year, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found a worrying trend indicating that pickup trucks and SUVs are significantly more likely to cause pedestrian deaths than small vehicles. The GHSA report includes statistics compiled over the past decade that indicate that “deaths due to SUVs have increased by 36%, while deaths due to passenger vehicles have increased by 27% over the same period.” As we all know, sales of light trucks (including trucks, SUVs and vans) increased while sales of small cars decreased a lot. This statistic, however, takes the number of sales out of the picture, calculating the incidence rate instead of the raw number. The GHSA report cites the heavy weight and reduced visibility of large and tall vehicles as a contributing factor to pedestrian deaths.
The states with the highest increase in pedestrian deaths in 2021 vs. 2020 are Florida (+183) and Texas (+111). California has a 68 percent reduction in pedestrian deaths, the largest decline in all state deaths in 2021. Of all the states, New Mexico had the highest pedestrian mortality rates, followed by Maine, Massachusetts and Idaho.
The full report can be found here (PDF link), and it is full of statistics that we should all be aware of, whether we are behind the wheel or walking or riding our bikes. The GHSA report also includes solutions to increasing pedestrian mortality that are known to work. “Safe systems provide a clear path to help pedestrians stop the death tide,” the GHSA said. It’s worth reading all the good times.