Pedestrians account for an increasing share of traffic deaths in the U.S. Source: GHSA
Pedestrian deaths rose 10 percent in the first half of 2015 compared to the same period the year before, according to preliminary data released by the Governors Highway Safety Association. If that increase held up over all 12 months of 2015, it would be among the worst single-year changes since the GHSA started collecting data in 1975.
In a typical year, nearly 5,000 Americans are killed while walking. While fatalities for car occupants have been dropping, pedestrian fatalities have not. As a result, pedestrian deaths now make up about 15 percent of traffic fatalities, compared to 11 percent a decade ago, according to the GHSA.
The big question is “Why?” So far, no one has offered a compelling answer backed up with thorough research. The best we have are educated guesses. Of course, you’ll also see some wild and irresponsible victim-blaming in the media. Here are some of the potential explanations that have been put forth and some thoughts on how seriously we should take them.
People are walking more. About 1 million more people walked to work in 2013 than in 2005, according to Census data cited by GHSA. That’s a 21 percent increase.
Keep in mind, though, that the Census doesn’t measure total walking volumes — it just counts commuters. So while it seems like people are probably walking more overall, the lack of good data makes it difficult to know with certainty.
Vehicles are getting safer, while pedestrians remain as vulnerable as ever. Government traffic safety agencies like GHSA and NHTSA have historically focused on technology and behavioral strategies to improve safety for car occupants. Hence the emphasis on seatbelt campaigns and vehicle safety standards.