The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) calls itself “The States’ Voice on Highway Safety,” annually releasing a data and reports about what’s happening on U.S. roads. The annual report on pedestrian deaths in 2022 is not good news. Early GHSA figures for 49 states and Washington, D.C. show that 7,508 pedestrians died last year after being hit by vehicles. The actual number is undoubtedly higher, though, because Oklahoma wasn’t able to submit its information due to technical issues. As it stands, there haven’t been that many pedestrian fatalities in the U.S. since 1981.
The GHSA uses slightly different metrics than the U.S. government’s National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). The GHSA counts a fatality when a struck pedestrian dies within 30 days of the incident. The NHTSA does not. The two organizations’ figures are usually close, though. For 2021, NHTSA data showed 7,388 pedestrians killed, GHSA data showed 7,485.
Data from both organizations show the number has been rising since 2010. In 2010 the NHTSA statistics put the number of deaths at 4,302. Motorcyclists and cyclists are also enduring an uptick in traffic fatalities. The increase in pedestrian fatalities represents a 77% increase in the past 13 years while the overall rise for other kinds of traffic fatalities is 25%. When driving miles decreased greatly in 2020 due to the pandemic, pedestrian deaths rose 4.7%.
The majority of deaths happen when at night and on roads without sidewalks. Almost every cause you can imagine are a contributor to the increase in deaths. These factors include larger vehicles, fewer pedestrian protections built into U.S. vehicles, riskier driving, distracted driving, poor infrastructure, an older population at higher risk of injury and death, and more. In regards to the size of vehicles, it’s worth noting that SUVs and pickups marginally outstrip cars as the vehicle causing fatalities, 40% to 35%.
Almost as many remedies have been suggested to lower the tally, but many — like red light cameras and lower speed limits — would anger drivers. As the NHTSA chief told the New York Times last year, “Motor vehicles are first, highways are first, and everything else is an afterthought.” The one we think most people could get behind is having more pedestrian islands. They’re a benefit and not just for pedestrians. The GHSA said about ways to mitigate fatalities “Some of the proven and promising approaches include designing and building safer roadways, engaging with people experiencing homelessness, focusing traffic enforcement on dangerous driving behaviors such as speeding and driving impaired or distracted, and educating novice drivers about their responsibility to look out for and yield to pedestrians and other road users.”
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