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Concern About Rising Pedestrian Fatalities

Although overall traffic fatalities are declining, recently pedestrian deaths have slightly increased. When comparing the first six months of last year to the same period in 2009, pedestrian deaths increased .4 percent while traffic fatalities overall declined roughly 8 percent.

This increase is somewhat surprising because the previous four years have shown steady decreases in pedestrian fatalities. Going even further back, pedestrian deaths fell substantially between 1999 and 2009 for most age groups. Most significantly, for those under 20, pedestrian deaths were down 42 percent during the 10 year period.

A former National Highway Traffic Safety Administration associate administrator explained the significance of the recent increase. “It may be the canary in the mine. It may be an indication that the drops we’ve been seeing (in fatalities) overall may have stopped”.

There are a variety of potential causes for this recent increase in pedestrian deaths. As we become more health conscious, more people may be walking. Additionally, just as drivers can be distracted by texting and other activities, so can pedestrians.

One major factor in pedestrian deaths may be high-speed roadways going through neighborhoods. A spokesman for Transportation America, a nonprofit safety group, commented, “It’s important not to lace neighborhoods with high-speed arterial roads…Unfortunately, that is the case in most of urban America.” The group found these types of roads are responsible for over 50 percent of fatalities.

Missouri and Kansas actually went against the nationwide trend with both states having fewer pedestrian deaths in the first half of 2010 than during first six months of 2009.