The Washington Post

Pedestrian deaths are on the rise again. But why?

Over the past decade, traffic and pedestrian fatalities have been on a slow, steady decline. Fewer drivers have been crashing their cars each year. And fewer walkers and joggers have been getting run over. At least, until recently.

Dramatic stock photo of pedestrians. (

In 2010, there were 32,885 traffic deaths in the United States, according to a new brief (pdf) from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Roughly 13 percent of those, or 4,280, were pedestrians. That's down considerably from a decade ago, but it's also up slightly since 2009. As NHSTA puts it: "On average, a pedestrian was killed every two hours and injured every eight minutes in traffic crashes."

A few more random facts from the brief:

— The most dangerous states for pedestrians are Florida (2.58 deaths per 100,000 people) and Delaware (2.45 deaths per 100,000 people). Wyoming had, by a large margin, the fewest pedestrian fatalities (0.53 per 100,000). Puerto Rico is more dangerous for walkers than any state in the United States.

— Most pedestrian fatalities (90 percent) occurred on a clear day rather than in bad weather, presumably for obvious reasons — not many joggers out during snowstorms. Two-thirds of pedestrian fatalities occur at night.

— Drunk driving was a factor in 14 percent of pedestrian deaths. Drunk walking, meanwhile, was a factor in 33 percent of pedestrian deaths. (Be careful of misinterpreting this statistic, though.)

Curiously, NHTSA says very little about the causes of pedestrian deaths. Over at StreetsblogDC, however, Tanya Snyder points out that road design appears to be a major factor: "[A]ccording to Transportation for America’s Dangerous by Design report on pedestrian fatalities, more than 52 percent of the 47,067 pedestrians killed... between 2000 and 2009 died on principal or minor arterials. These wide, straight roads are often extremely hostile to pedestrians. They feature little to no facilities for walking, so drivers aren’t looking for people on foot."

In the past, Congress had tried to address this safety issue in its transportation bills. But not this year. As Snyder reports here, the most recent iteration of the transportation bill, known as MAP-21, is set to scale back funding for bike and pedestrian programs by between 33 percent and 66 percent, depending on how states react.



Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments
Most Read



Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Your Three. Video curated for you.
Next Story
Ezra Klein · August 8, 2012

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.