Projected fatality rate for people walking spiked 21% for largest ever year-over-year increase as dangerous driving and traffic violence plagued U.S. roads.
New data from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) projects that 2020 had the largest ever annual increase in the rate at which drivers struck and killed people on foot. What drove this surge? The likely culprits are dangerous driving like speeding, drunk and drugged driving, and distraction, which were rampant on U.S. roads during the COVID-19 pandemic, combined with infrastructure issues that have prioritized the movement of motor vehicles over walking and bicycling for many years.
In March, GHSA offered a preview of state and national pedestrian traffic deaths for the first six months of 2020 based on preliminary data reported by the State Highway Safety Offices (SHSOs) in all 50 states and the District of Columbia (D.C.). The report warned that while there were fewer drivers on the road, pedestrians remained at increased risk of being struck and killed by a vehicle. The new Pedestrian Traffic Fatalities by State: 2020 Preliminary Data Addendum, released today, provides the first look at projected pedestrian fatalities for the full year using additional preliminary data provided by the SHSOs.
GHSA projects there were 6,721 pedestrian deaths in 2020 – a 4.8% increase from the 6,412 fatalities reported by SHSOs the year before. Factoring in a 13.2% decrease in vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in 2020, the pedestrian fatality rate was 2.3 per billion VMT, a shocking and unprecedented 21% increase from 1.9 in 2019. This projection is the largest ever annual increase in the pedestrian death rate since the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) was established in 1975.
“Last year was filled with so much death and loss as COVID swept across the country. As America gets vaccinated and returns to normal, we need to treat pedestrian safety like the public health emergency that it is,” said GHSA Executive Director Jonathan Adkins. “We must strengthen our efforts to protect those on foot from traffic violence by implementing equitable and proven countermeasures that protect people walking and address those driving behaviors that pose the greatest risk.”