Causes of Increase in US Pedestrian Accidents

by | Jan 15, 2024 | Health Featured

Since 2010, pedestrian deaths are up 77% according to the Governors Highway Safety Association data. Why did over 7,500 people die while walking or jogging on a roadway last year? Every day, on average, 20 Americans walk along a roadway and are killed by a vehicle. In Florida, one of the worst states for pedestrians, there were in 792 fatalities in 2022. The spike in the number of deaths is attributed to many factors, including:

Larger Vehicles on the Roads

SUVs and full-size pickups are increasingly popular. The occupants of these vehicles feel safer than they do in compact cars, but these larger vehicles exert a deadlier force on pedestrians. If a compact car hits a pedestrian, they are likely to get hit on their legs, which, while devastating, isn’t usually fatal. Vehicles that sit higher are more likely to impact with a pedestrian’s torso, which can cause fatal injuries. Consumer reports say SUVs and pickups have more blind sports than cars. There are blind spot safety features available, but they are not included on all new cars and trucks and me only be available for an additional cost.

Speeding and Distracted Driving

People are speeding more post-pandemic according to a study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. During the pandemic, the roads were almost empty, leading some drivers to develop bad habits like speeding and distracted driving. For every 10 mph faster a vehicle is traveling, the greater the chance the accident will be fatal for the pedestrian. Additionally, drivers are more distracted by smartphones today. While there are hefty fines for texting and driving, people still do. Even drivers who use hands-free technology to talk can still become distracted by conversations and alerts.

Less Pedestrian-Friendly Roads

Cities and towns usually have sidewalks for pedestrians to make walking safe. Suburbs, which are expanding rapidly, and rural locations rarely have sidewalks. Pedestrians are forced to walk dangerously close to the road, having nowhere else to go, putting them in harm’s way.

Right on Red Laws

In order to save energy and reduce emissions, in the 1970’s the federal government suggested drivers could make a right turn even when the light is red if the intersection is clear. Over the years, this became the law throughout most of the US. More recent studies have attributed pedestrian deaths and injuries to right turns on red. As a result, many locations, like New York City, have implemented bans at most intersections except for rare exceptions. Drivers who are used to the practice may disregard these new laws and put people using the crosswalk in danger.

Low Income Populations

Many lower income populations rely on affordable transportation. Many cannot afford a vehicle and are forced to walk to work or to shop if there is no affordable public transportation. With many low-income areas lacking proper sidewalks and bike lanes, people may be forced to travel in dangerous situations. The increase in the homeless population throughout the US may also be contributing to pedestrian deaths. Homeless persons are at a much higher risk. In 2021, Portland saw 70% of pedestrian fatalities attributed to the homeless population.


Pedestrian deaths are on the rise. Many factors may be contributing to this loss of life. Including larger vehicles, distracted driving and speeding, and lack of infrastructure to provide safe spaces to walk. By understanding the causes, we can work to make positive changes and reduce the rates of pedestrian fatalities. 

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