Skip to Content
Streetsblog USA home
Streetsblog USA home
Log In
Coronavirus

Report: US Pedestrian Death Rate Increased 9x Faster Than Population During COVID

Pedestrian deaths are continuing to skyrocket even as the pandemic wanes — and since 2019, the death rate for walkers has eclipsed the rate of population growth by a factor of at least nine, analysts say.

U.S. drivers killed 3,434 people on foot in the first six months of 2022, an increase of 5 percent over the same period the prior year — and a staggering 18 percent increase over the number of walkers who died in early 2019, the last year before the pandemic, according to the latest fatality estimates from the Governors Highway Safety Association.

Those numbers can't easily be explained by non-traffic-related factors, noting that since "2019, the last pre-pandemic year, pedestrian fatalities have surged 18 percent in just three years – nine times faster than U.S. population growth," the report said.

Estimates for the death toll in the second half of 2022 won't be out until spring, but if the trend continues, it will mean an average of 19 walkers lost their lives on U.S. roads every single day last year.

"It’s absolutely mind-boggling and heartbreaking," Jonathan Adkins, CEO of the association, said in a statement. "The only way to reverse this awful trend is to do more of everything that works — more and better designed infrastructure to keep people walking safe, equitable enforcement of traffic safety laws to stop dangerous driving and engaging more communities where the impacts of this crisis are felt the hardest.”

Graphic: GHSA
Graphic: GHSA. Click to view larger.
Graphic: GHSA

The news will come as disappointing if not particularly surprising to street safety advocates, many of whom hoped pedestrian deaths would ebb as pandemic restrictions waned and cars returned to U.S. roads, increasing congestion and leaving drivers with less space to reach deadly speeds. Instead, experts say that changing commute patterns caused traffic to spread more evenly throughout the day — and paired with increases in reckless driving behavior and the absence of other systemic interventions, deaths continued to surge.

According to the new data, some of those surges were even more alarming at the state level. When the group compared the first six months of 2021 with the same period in 2022, they found that walker deaths had increased a shocking 266.67 percent in Nebraska, 150 percent in New Hampshire, and 87.5 percent in Delaware.

Those dramatic numbers are partly explained by those states' small populations — all have fewer than two million residents — but the group points out that  large communities remain unacceptably dangerous, too. The three most populous states in America (California, Florida and Texas) posted 38 percent of all pedestrian fatalities in 2022 despite being home to just 28 percent of the U.S. population.

Regardless of a community's size, though, advocates emphasizes that the solution to surging pedestrian deaths across America is the same: dismantling the systemic factors that make American roads, vehicles, and drivers amongst the most dangerous in the developed world, and replacing them with the rigorous Safe Systems approach as outlined in the National Roadway Safety Strategy that US DOT adopted last year. Because if we don't, the pedestrian crisis is likely to continue — pandemic or no.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog USA

Delivery Worker Minimum Wage Shows Promise … For Some, Data Shows

New data from New York City's Department of Consumer and Worker Protection shows minimum wage is bringing order to a previously wild industry.

July 15, 2024

Monday’s Headlines Go Through Basic Training

An NYU study looks into why the U.S. is lagging behind on high-speed rail, and one transportation expert ponders the impact on growth.

July 15, 2024

Sustainable Transportation Advocates Need to Talk About Sustainable Urban Design

A new book hopes to act as a "magic decoder ring" to our built environment — and a powerful tool to understand how sustainable transportation networks can fit within them.

July 15, 2024

Long Beach Leads in Traffic Circles

Traffic circles aren't quite ubiquitous in Long Beach, but they're around. Riding and walking through the city one encounters circles in neighborhoods rich and poor, new and old.

July 12, 2024

Friday’s Headlines Take Me to the River

Politico reports that the Biden administration is investing $2.5 billion in updating aging Mississippi River locks and dams like this one in Iowa. Transporting freight by barge produces less emissions than trucks or even rail.

July 12, 2024
See all posts