What Caused the Spike in Pedestrian Deaths in 2015?According to new data released by the Governor’s Highway Safety Association, there is a projected 10 percent spike in pedestrian fatalities in the 2015 traffic crash data. This is anticipated to be the largest annual increase ever in these numbers, which is causing great alarm for the safety agencies that track these numbers. In the first nine months of 2015, there were 2,368 pedestrian fatalities, which is up from 2,232 in the previous year in the same time frame. In the District of Columbia, there was a 40 percent increase in the first part of 2015 with seven pedestrian fatalities compared with five in the previous year during the same time period.

One of the reports’ authors, Richard Retting, said “Pedestrian safety is clearly a growing problem across the country. It is important to understand the data underlying these crashes so states and localities can apply the right mix of engineering, education and enforcement to counteract this troubling trend.” According to the report, pedestrian fatalities now account for about 15 percent of all motor vehicle crash-related deaths compared to 11 percent a decade ago.

Some of the factors that could be contributing to the spike in pedestrian deaths in motor vehicle crashes include:

  • Increased motor vehicle travel fueled in part by lower gas prices
  • The growing use of cell phones among pedestrians
  • Increasing “crashworthiness” of vehicles improves the likelihood that the driver and passengers will survive a crash
  • Pedestrians, however, remain just as vulnerable to injury when struck by a motor vehicle
  • Increased number of Americans walking for health

States with large, urban centers such as California, Florida, Texas and New York accounted for about 42 percent of all pedestrian deaths in the first six months of 2015. The recently passed federal surface transportation bill, FAST Act, gives the states additional flexibility to take on pedestrian safety challenges. The GHSA is looking forward to working with the NHTSA to drive down the number of pedestrian deaths and move closer to zero pedestrian deaths.

In an effort to address the issue of increasing pedestrian deaths in motor vehicle accidents, the U.S. Department of Transportation convened a regional summit in Sacramento, CA to consider new approaches to the “tried-and-true” tactics that have worked in the past. It was the first in a series of regional summits that will be held across the country and culminate in a nationwide event in Washington, D.C. to gather new ideas, engage partners and generate additional approaches to take on the human behavioral issues that contribute to 94 percent of road deaths. The summits will examine issues such as:

  • Drunk driving
  • Drugged driving
  • Distracted driving
  • Drowsy driving
  • Speeding
  • Failure to use safety belts
  • Failure to use child safety seats
  • Explore new initiatives and ideas to protect pedestrians and cyclists

Some of the more promising approaches that the GHSA is exploring include targeted traffic enforcement, public information campaigns, data analysis and mapping to identify high-risk zones, road safety audits, community-based pedestrian safety assessments and strategic partnership with other organizations.