Cyclist and Pedestrian Deaths Skyrocket in 2018 as Motorists Stay Safe

Cyclist fatalities rose 10 percent and pedestrian deaths increased 4 percent nationally while traffic fatalities overall fell 1 percent in 2018, federal data shows.

The lack of widespread public concern about the epidemic of traffic crashes may stem from how they are reported in the media.
The lack of widespread public concern about the epidemic of traffic crashes may stem from how they are reported in the media.

America’s roads are safe increasingly for only those who drive on them.

For the second year in a row, cyclist and pedestrian fatalities rose while the overall number of traffic deaths fell across the country, according to federal projections compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The group’s preliminary finding shows that 36,750 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes last year — a decline of about 1 percent from the 37,133 fatalities in 2017. But cyclist fatalities soared 10 percent and pedestrian deaths rose four percent last year, the NHTSA estimated. Motorist fatalities fell slightly.

The NHTSA said it was “too soon to speculate” on why pedestrians, motorcyclists, and cyclists are dying in greater numbers, but analysts have long explained the rising body count. New cars in the American market, for example, are becoming significantly safer and more reliable for drivers than older ones, the NHTSA has found, but those bigger cars tend to be safer only for people inside the vehicle.

Meanwhile, cities and suburbs are increasingly promoting walkable and bikeable neighborhoods and commutes, which often cause increases in pedestrian and bike travel even before streets have been properly redesigned for safety.

Too many roadways remained designed only for car drivers, so they lack protected or separated bike lanes or longer crossing signals for pedestrians. And thanks to smartphones, drivers are becoming more distracted than ever. There were 3,166 people killed from distracted driving in 2017 alone. Pedestrian deaths have been on a steady rise since 2009, when smartphones became ubiquitous.

This is what a pedestrian safety crisis looks like. Graph: Governor's Highway Safety Association
This is what a pedestrian safety crisis looks like. Graph: Governor’s Highway Safety Association

Transportation safety advocates say cities also need to lower speed limits and increase traffic enforcement to save cyclist and pedestrian lives.

“We’ve got to make sure we’ve got safe places to walk, good crosswalks, and that we enforce traffic laws,” Jonathan Adkins, executive director with the Governors Highway Safety Association, told WTOP-FM. “When the public thinks they’re going to get a ticket, they slow down, they wear their seat belts, they don’t drive impaired.”

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

This driver survived. But the pedestrian he might have hit would likely have died. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

Drivers Get Safety — The Rest of Us Get Slaughtered

|
Fatal car crashes are down for the second straight year across the nation — but the number of pedestrians and cyclists killed by motorists are up again, further evidence that cars are getting safer only for people inside the vehicle. According to final 2018 data released today by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 36,560 […]

U.S. Traffic Fatalities Rising Fast — Especially Pedestrian and Cyclist Deaths

|
Traffic fatalities in America hit a seven-year high in 2015, with pedestrians and cyclists accounting for a disproportionate share of the alarming increase, according to preliminary data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Last year, 35,200 people were killed in traffic — a 7.7 percent increase over 2014 and the worst death toll since 2008. The number of people killed while […]

NHTSA: Traffic Deaths Shot Up 5.3 Percent to 34,080 in 2012

|
Deaths from motor vehicle crashes rose 5.3 percent in 2012, according to new numbers from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration [PDF]. It’s the first time since 2005 that fatalities have gone up. Vehicle miles traveled only rose 0.3 percent last year. The winter was especially nasty, with 12.6 percent more deaths than the previous winter. […]

No Explanations as Traffic Deaths Jump 13.5 Percent

|
In the wake of the shocking and tragic massacre in an Aurora, Colorado movie theater, many people are now, understandably, skittish about going to the movies. But the most dangerous part of going to the movies is driving there. In the first three months of this year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 7,630 […]

It’s Official: 33,561 People Killed in Traffic on American Streets Last Year

|
The official 2012 death toll is out for our nation’s poorly-designed, auto-centric transportation system. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, traffic injuries on the nation’s roadways claimed the lives of 33,561 people. The headline of the agency’s press release, “NHTSA Data Confirms Traffic Fatalities Increased In 2012,” is quickly walked back by the subhed, […]