A pedestrian was killed in a traffic crash every 81 minutes in 2020 in the United States. What’s more disturbing is the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) projects that a pedestrian death will have occurred about every 70 minutes when the final 2021 statistics are released.
That projection of 7,485 deaths for last year would be nearly 1,000 more than in 2020, amounting to an 11.5% increase. The massive rise in pedestrian fatalities is not a recent phenomenon. While all types of traffic deaths rose by 13% from 2010 to 2020, the GHSA says pedestrian deaths rose by a staggering 54%.
Washington statistics and causes for fatal accidents
In Washington, the number of people on foot killed by motor vehicles has risen by about 14% over the past two years. A preliminary estimate for 2021 reports 125 people died, two dozen more than in 2019. Overall, traffic fatalities reached a 15-year high in 2021 in the Evergreen State.
The GHSA says a surge in dangerous driving behavior that started in the initial stages of the pandemic hasn’t tapered off. Drivers speed more often and are more prone to reckless behavior or distractions. Safety experts say more people are driving SUVs and other large vehicles that can do more damage. Pedestrians are also put at risk by badly marked crosswalks, busy intersections and poor lighting.
Safety tips for pedestrians and drivers
While not everyone drives, all of us are pedestrians at one point or another. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration offers these tips:
- Obey traffic signs and signals
- Stick to sidewalks whenever available
- If no sidewalk is present, walk facing traffic and as far away from the road as possible
- Use crosswalks, but if one isn’t available, look for a well-lit area to cross
- Be extra careful of cars entering or exiting parking lots or driveways
- Avoid alcohol and drugs that can impair your reflexes and judgment
- Always be on the lookout for pedestrians
- Be extra cautious during times of limited visibility, such as at night or during severe weather
- Use extreme caution when backing up
- Yield to pedestrians in crosswalks, stopping well back to give them plenty of room and to allow other drivers to see them
- Stay within the speed limit, especially in school zones and residential areas
- Never pass a car stopped at a crosswalk
- Avoid drinking or consuming drugs and driving
The GHSA says inadequate infrastructure and the trend of Americans driving larger vehicles are contributing factors to the astronomical increase in pedestrian deaths over the past 12 years. But drivers’ increasingly risky behavior is the most significant factor in the disturbing spike in fatalities and is almost always avoidable.