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Pedestrian Deaths in the U.S. Increase Dramatically

Despite a steep decline in road traffic in the past several years due to the Covid shutdowns, pedestrian fatalities in the United States have skyrocketed to the highest levels ever. In 2021 alone, 7,485 pedestrians were killed in the United States, the highest number ever and an increase of 2.3% over 2020, which was also a record-breaking year. The number of pedestrians and cyclists killed continued to trend upward in 2022, with fatalities increasing by 2% among pedestrians and 8% among cyclists, despite an overall reduction in traffic fatalities by 0.2%.

The U.S. is a global outlier in its high number of car deaths

America’s increasing pedestrian fatalities make it an outlier in the developed world. During Covid shutdowns in Europe, Canada, Japan, and South Korea, nearly every wealthy nation saw a sharp reduction in highway and pedestrian deaths. Meanwhile, in the United States, roadway deaths spiked. This reflects a broader trend over the last several decades. For example, France and the U.S. had similar roadway death rates in 2000, but today Americans are three times as likely to die in a traffic crash compared to people in France.

Why is the U.S. so bad at road and pedestrian safety?

The increasing deaths have raised questions among the country’s road safety leaders. “Motor vehicles are first, highways are first, and everything else is an afterthought,” said Jennifer Homendy, chair of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). In particular, officials noted improvements in car safety that protects people inside of a car, which have led to an overall decrease in roadway fatalities, but a failure to protect people outside of a car, including pedestrians and cyclists.

This is compounded by car and road design—Americans drive bigger cars on roadways poorly designed to accommodate both pedestrians and vehicles. Distracted driving and “distracted pedestrians” in the age of cell phones has also been considered a contributing factor to rising pedestrian death rates.

Kentucky also has higher number of pedestrian incidents

Kentucky has not escaped this trend. 2022 was one of the deadliest years in Louisville history for pedestrian deaths. In 2021, the last year with available statistics, 76 Kentucky pedestrians were killed in car wrecks, 79% of which occurred during nighttime. Overall, 916 Kentucky pedestrians were either killed or injured in car wrecks in 2021, a slight decrease from 2020 when 1,027 Kentucky pedestrians were struck by a car.  

Tips to improve road and pedestrian safety

To decrease the risk of pedestrian injuries and fatalities, the Kentucky Office of Highway Safety (KOHS) recommends the following tips for drivers:

  • Put the phone down and pay attention.
  • Yield the right-of-way to pedestrians. Be especially careful at intersections when turning onto another street.
  • Keep your windshield, windows and mirrors clean.
  • Obey the speed limit.
  • Slow down and turn on your headlights during evening hours.
  • Be aware in neighborhoods and school zones. Children are often the smallest pedestrians, making them harder to see. Additionally, younger children may dart into intersections without understanding the dangers.
  • Drive sober and buckle up.

For pedestrians, KOHS recommends:  

  • Use crosswalks and avoid jaywalking and crossing between parked vehicles.
  • Walk on sidewalks whenever possible. If you must walk on the street, walk facing traffic.
  • Don’t depend on the traffic signal to protect you. Motorists may be distracted, especially when adjusting to the nighttime travel environment.
  • Increase visibility, especially at night. Carry a flashlight, wear reflective clothing or attach reflective materials.
  • Just because you can see a motorist does not mean the motorist can see you. Make eye contact with the driver and if you cannot, wait until the vehicle passes.
  • Put the phone down and pay attention.
  • Use caution if intoxicated.

Contact the Poppe Law Firm

If you have been severely injured in a car or semi wreck while walking or riding a bike, of if you have lost a loved one who was a pedestrian, please do not hesitate to contact us at the Poppe Law Firm.

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