Pedestrian deaths are on the rise again. But why?

Pedestrian deaths are on the rise again. But why?

Posted by Brad Plumer on August 8, 2012

Over the past decade, traffic and pedestrian fatalities have been on a slow, steady decline. Fewer drivers have been crashing their cars each year. And fewer walkers and joggers have been getting run over. At least, until recently.

In 2010, there were 32,885 traffic deaths in the United States, according to a new brief (pdf) from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Roughly 13 percent of those, or 4,280, were pedestrians. That’s down considerably from a decade ago, but it’s also up slightly since 2009. As NHSTA puts it: “On average, a pedestrian was killed every two hours and injured every eight minutes in traffic crashes.”

A few more random facts from the brief:

— The most dangerous states for pedestrians are Florida (2.58 deaths per 100,000 people) and Delaware (2.45 deaths per 100,000 people). Wyoming had, by a large margin, the fewest pedestrian fatalities (0.53 per 100,000). Puerto Rico is more dangerous for walkers than any state in the United States.

— Most pedestrian fatalities (90 percent) occurred on a clear day rather than in bad weather, presumably for obvious reasons — not many joggers out during snowstorms. Two-thirds of pedestrian fatalities occur at night.

— Drunk driving was a factor in 14 percent of pedestrian deaths. Drunk walking, meanwhile, was a factor in 33 percent of pedestrian deaths. (Be careful of misinterpreting this statistic, though.)

Curiously, NHTSA says very little about the causes of pedestrian deaths. Over at StreetsblogDC, however, Tanya Snyder points out that road design appears to be a major factor: “[A]ccording to Transportation for America’s Dangerous by Design report on pedestrian fatalities, more than 52 percent of the 47,067 pedestrians killed… between 2000 and 2009 died on principal or minor arterials. These wide, straight roads are often extremely hostile to pedestrians. They feature little to no facilities for walking, so drivers aren’t looking for people on foot.”

In the past, Congress had tried to address this safety issue in its transportation bills. But not this year. As Snyder reports here, the most recent iteration of the transportation bill, known as MAP-21, is set to scale back funding for bike and pedestrian programs by between 33 percent and 66 percent, depending on how states react.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/wp/2012/08/08/pedestrian-deaths-are-on-the-rise-again-but-why/

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