Walking has probably never been more dangerous in the United States. Pedestrian fatality numbers in 2016 increased for the second consecutive year. What’s more, those fatality numbers are at alarming new highs.
Data presented by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) finds that projected pedestrian accident fatality numbers increased by approximately 11% between 2015 and 2016 – the biggest year-to-year spike since the organization began tracking those numbers. In the first half of 2016, there were 2,660 fatalities in pedestrian accidents. During the same period of time in 2015, there were 2,486 fatalities. The report projects a 22% increase in pedestrian fatalities in 2016 from 2014.
Overall, pedestrians now account for approximately 15% of all traffic accident fatalities in the United States. When the final numbers come in for 2017, the GHSA believes that the number of pedestrian traffic fatalities could actually be more than 6,000 pedestrian deaths for the first time in 20 years. Overall, the number of fatalities actually increased by 25% between 2010 and 2015. That is even as the total number of traffic accident fatalities overall increased by just 6%.
What has caused this increase in fatalities? The GHSA report blames a number of factors, including economic conditions and fuel prices which typically dictate the overall rates of walking on our community streets. The demographics of the city, and weather conditions, also tend to strongly influence the amount of time people spend walking. And of course, people distracted by smartphones as they walk or drive.
The Governors Highway Safety Association report also commends individual state efforts to reduce the risk to pedestrians. In Georgia for example, the See and Be Seen Campaign encourages motorists to look out for pedestrians, especially near marked crosswalks and intersections. It also encourages pedestrians to ensure that they are visible to motorists, thereby reducing their risks of being involved in an accident. The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) has also undertaken a number of other measures to reduce fatality numbers, including identifying high-risk bus stop corridors, conducting pedestrian-focused audits of traffic safety, updating the Pedestrian Streetscape Guides, and other measures.
Pedestrian fatality statistics are especially bleak in the state of Georgia. Georgia was one of eleven states that had fatality rates equal to one or more per 100,000 people. Georgia had a rate of 1.06 fatalities per 100,000 population between January and June 2016.