Rise in pedestrian deaths examined

Posted on February 1, 2021

Pedestrians have no physical protection against vehicles. This may account for the 53 percent rise in pedestrian deaths in this country from 2009 to 2018. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety recently issued a report on the potential causes of these fatal motor vehicle accidents.    

Alarming trends

Pedestrian deaths from 4,109 to 6,283 from 2009 to 2018 after dropping for three decades. Pedestrian deaths as a proportion of traffic fatalities rose from 12 percent to 17 percent over that time.

The United States had the largest percentage increase in pedestrian deaths among 30 nations in the Organization for Economic Co-operation & Development. Twenty-four of these countries had a decrease in these fatalities.


The number of pedestrians struck by driver aged 60 through 69 and 70 through 79 increased the most on a percentage basis. The number of pedestrians killed by drivers aged 20 through 29 and 30 through 39 rose by the largest absolute numbers. Adult pedestrian deaths accounted for the overall increase while the number child and teenage pedestrian deaths fell.

Pedestrians killed in accidents with motorists who were legally intoxicated rose by a larger amount than the accidents with drivers who were below the legal limit.

As in earlier studies, the number of pedestrians who were killed by SUVs rose faster than the number of pedestrians struck by cars. But more pedestrians are killed by cars and the number of those fatalities rose substantially over the last decade.

The largest number of pedestrian deaths occurred in urban areas as in the past. Pedestrians killed in urban areas rose by 2,000 and those killed in rural areas increased by one.

Over two-thirds of the total pedestrian deaths occurred on urban and nonfreeway arterial roads. Pedestrian deaths at locations where there are no intersections rose by over 1,800 and those killed at intersections increased by 29.

The number of pedestrians killed in the dark increased by 1,900 while daylight deaths increased by less than 200. Pedestrian or driver intoxication did not play a role in these increases even though it plays a role in these traffic deaths, generally.


The AAA attributed higher speed limits with higher fatalities and recommended lower speeds in areas where pedestrian activity is anticipated and at night. Road design should also be modified to reduce speed.

It also suggested changes to vehicle design by reducing horsepower, improving headlights, and changing hood and bumper designs to decrease their severity to pedestrians. Current automatic braking systems should be evaluated to improve performance at relatively high speeds and in the dark.

Victims of these accidents may be entitled to compensation. An attorney can help them pursue this right in a lawsuit.