The number of lives claimed by pedestrian accidents along US roadways climbs to highest level since 1990 according to a report from the Governors Highway Safety Association, a nonprofit representing highway safety offices across the country.
Governors Highway Safety Association estimates 6,227 pedestrians were killed in 2018, an increase of 250 from 2017.
“While we have made progress reducing fatalities among many other road users in the past decade, pedestrian deaths have risen 35 percent,” Governors Highway Safety Association Executive Director Jonathan Adkins noted in a statement.
“The alarm bells continue to sound on this issue,” Adkins said in a release about the rising number of people hit and killed by vehicles. “It’s clear we need to fortify our collective efforts to protect pedestrians and reverse the trend.”
U.S. pedestrian fatalities have increased 35 percent since 2008 and risen significantly compared to all other roadway involved fatalities.
Over the past 10 years, nighttime crashes have accounted for more than 90% of the total increase in pedestrian deaths, and alcohol impairment for either the driver or the pedestrian was reported in half of the incidents that resulted in pedestrian fatalities.
State highway safety offices in all 50 states and the District of Columbia reported pedestrian fatalities during the first six months of 2018, which the researchers combined with historical data to estimate the total number of pedestrian deaths for the year.
In addition, the growing market for pickups, crossover utility vehicles and SUVs in the United States have significantly affected US pedestrian fatalities as pedestrian fatalities involving bigger cars such as SUVs have risen 50 percent since 2013.
Pedestrians are now being hit by bigger, heavier, and more powerful vehicles. As a result, pedestrians who are hit are more likely to die or suffer life-threatening injuries.
Add a strong economy with relatively cheap gas prompting more people to drive more miles and it’s a deadly recipe for people walking along roads or crossing streets, reports CNBC.
The number of pedestrian deaths varied widely from state to state, with New Hampshire reporting one in the first six months of 2018 and California reporting 432.
The increase also comes at a time in which all other traffic deaths are on the decline, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association report.
In addition, the researchers attribute the dramatic incline of US pedestrian deaths to more people who are walking, making them more prone to accidents and nighttime crossings on local roads away from intersections.
Unsafe driving behaviors are also linked to cause more US pedestrian deaths. Aside from drunk or drugged driving, distracted driving is also said to contribute to the rising statistics.
Adkins said on the Governors Highway Safety Association Facebook post, “it’s still the same things that are killing drivers — belts, booze and speed. ” Adkins also noted that distracted driving is an issue that extends well-beyond calls and texting and includes app usage.
While cars and phones now offer advanced voice controls and other features intended to keep drivers’ eyes on the road, more apps on smartphones like Google Maps, and Facebook is making it hard for people to look away from their phones.
The authors stress that reducing and eventually eliminating pedestrian deaths requires a comprehensive approach that includes law enforcement, engineering, education and effective emergency medical response. The approach should also be tailored to the needs of state and local communities.
“Crossing the street should not be a death sentence,” Richard Retting, director of safety and research at Sam Schwartz Consulting and an author of the report, said in a statement. “We have a range of proven infrastructure, engineering, and behavioral strategies that we know can reduce pedestrian deaths.”
The authors acknowledge that many factors outside the control of traffic safety officials contribute to the changes in the number of pedestrian fatalities, including weather, fuel prices, the cost of travel and the total number of people who choose to walk in every state.
Meanwhile, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia,