Watch Out! Pedestrian Deaths Are on the Rise

Pedestrian deaths in 2015 set to be highest since 1975, Governors Highway Safety Association study finds.


Walking might be healthier than driving, but taking a stroll seems to be getting increasingly dangerous.

According to a new report from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), which represents state highway safety offices, pedestrian deaths in the first half of 2015 reached their highest point in 30 years.

The death rates also increased by six percent from 2014 to 2015 alone. The rate of pedestrian deaths also increased from 11 to 15 percent of all traffic deaths in the last decade.

“We are projecting the largest year-to-year increase in pedestrian fatalities since national records have been kept, and therefore we are quite alarmed,” study co-author Richard Retting, director of safety and research at Sam Schwartz Consulting, a transportation planning firm, said in a statement. “Pedestrian safety is clearly a growing problem across the country."

The increase in fatalities could be a result of cell phone distractions for both drivers and walkers, warmer weather and the increase in driving that resulted after lower gas prices, the study authors said. A third of the deaths occurred after alcohol consumption, while about 75 percent occurred after dark.

In this study, Retting and co-author Dr. Heather Rothenberg, director of policy and federal projects for Sam Schwartz Consulting, compared pedestrian fatality data from the first six months of 2015 to the first half of 2014. They found that while pedestrian deaths in 2014 totaled about 2,200 deaths, the number jumped to almost 2,370 deaths by 2015--a six percent increase. This could mean that after the remaining 2015 data is analyzed, the increase in deaths could total 10 percent.

40 percent of the fatalities occurred in California, Texas, New York and Florida. According to the GHSA, this study emphasizes the need for safer pedestrian walk ways and of furthering safety measures already in place. These include public awareness campaigns, data analysis and partnerships with universities and other organizations.

The GHSA says the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, a transportation and infrastructure bill recently passed by the US Congress, should also contribute to increasing pedestrian safety.

“GHSA and our member states will continue to make pedestrian safety a priority,” Jonathan Adkins, GHSA Executive Director, said in the statement. “The recently passed federal surface transportation bill, the FAST Act, will give states more resources and flexibility to address their most pressing pedestrian safety problems."

This report was published March 18 by the GHSA.

Funding sources and disclosures were undeclared.