Policy

Dangerous driving, poorly designed roadways accelerate pedestrian deaths

But 26 states saw a decrease in deaths, including Florida, which had seen the largest growth in pedestrian fatalities in 2021.

deberarr/Getty Images

In 2022, at least 7,508 people were struck and killed by moving vehicles—the highest pedestrian death count since 1981, according to a new report

According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, or GHSA, Arizona saw the greatest increase in the number of deaths from the previous year, 47, followed closely by Virginia and Oregon, with an increase of 44 and 41 fatalities, respectively. 

“It’s a recurring theme … and it’s getting old,” said Pam Shadel Fischer, GHSA’s senior director of external engagement. 

For Shadel Fischer, the issue is personal. Her uncle was struck by a vehicle while crossing Route 46 in Denville, New Jersey, on his way home from church and later died from his injuries. 

The study released today includes data submitted to GHSA by state highway safety officers from 49 states and the District of Columbia. It builds on a previous GHSA study that analyzed traffic death data during the first six months of 2022. Data from Oklahoma was unable to be included, GHSA officials stated

In total, GHSA estimated 22 states saw a jump in pedestrian deaths from 2021 to 2022. Just one state, Rhode Island, reported no change in data.

However, the report found that 26 states saw a decrease in deaths, including Florida, which had seen the largest growth in pedestrian fatalities in 2021 by 183 deaths. Last year, the state reversed the trend, reporting a decline in the number of deaths by nine. 

Still, the 2022 data projected a 1% increase in nationwide pedestrian traffic deaths from the previous year. The data indicates fatalities have increased since 2019. 

According to Shadel Fischer, dangerous driving behaviors, which have become more prevalent since the pandemic, contributed to the rise in pedestrian deaths. There are also greater numbers of larger and heavier vehicles, such as SUVs, on the roads, which tend to cause more serious injuries and deaths compared with smaller cars when they are involved in collisions. 

Poor infrastructure and road designs are other elements putting pedestrians at risk. “We have designed our roadway system … to move people in cars and trucks,” Shadel Fischer said. “We’ve done a poor job of taking into account other modes of transportation.” 

For instance, she advised local leaders to consider where bike lanes and sidewalks should be added in their communities to ensure safe mobility for citizens.

Better street lighting is also necessary, as 51% of pedestrian fatalities that happened after dark occurred even in areas with artificial lighting, according to data from the federal Fatality Analysis Reporting System. 

States should also develop educational resources tailored for new and experienced drivers, Shadel Fischer said. For example, the report highlights efforts in California and Minnesota to leverage social media to promote safe driving practices. 

“All of us in highway safety, we have a role to play … but we need the public to understand the impact of this problem and that they can play a role in this,” she said.

A version of this story was first published on Route Fifty

NEXT STORY: Air Force moved families 15 times to evade LGTBQ+, racial discrimination