Although more Americans remained home last year during the pandemic, negligent motorists drove up the number of pedestrian fatalities. According to a preliminary report from the Governors Highway Safety Administration, the pedestrian death rate rose by 20 percent during the first six months of 2020 because of motor vehicle accidents caused by speeding, distracted and impaired motorists.
Fatalities projected to rise in 2020
The GHSA’s annual report, Spotlight on Highway Safety, is a comprehensive analysis of state and national trends based upon preliminary data from all the states and Washington, DC. Last year could be the largest annual increase in pedestrian deaths in this country if, as experts fear, this accident trend continues.
From Jan. through June 2020, there were 2,957 pedestrian fatalities from vehicle crashes in this country. This was an increase of six from that time in 2019.
These figures are disturbing because there was a 16.5 percent drop in vehicle miles traveled in this county in 2020. This makes the rate of drivers striking and killing pedestrians rise to 2.2 deaths per billion VMT. This is a substantial increase from 18 months earlier.
The GHSA also evaluated 2019 data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Pedestrian fatalities comprised 17 percent of all traffic deaths in 2019 compared to 13 percent in 2010.
The number of traffic deaths increased by 46 percent over the last ten years while overall traffic fatalities rose by only 5 percent. Pedestrians remain unprotected in these accidents while vehicle occupants received the benefits of improved vehicle safety and technology.
Ohio had a 12 percent increase in pedestrian fatalities for the first six months of 2020. It had 67 pedestrian deaths compared to 60 fatalities for that period in 2019. Ohio ranked 13th in the country in the percentage change of pedestrian deaths.
The 2019 NHTSA data addressed other issues. Alcohol impairment by motorists or pedestrians was reported in almost half of all traffic fatality crashes.
Pedestrian safety plans should also address racial equity. Motorists stuck and killed a larger proportion of Black, indigenous and people of color pedestrians than anticipated based upon their population share. Pedestrians who were classified as white/non-Hispanic were a much smaller proportion based upon population.
The number of pedestrians killed by sport utility vehicles rose by 69 percent over the last decade. However, passenger vehicles are the largest categories of vehicles involved in these accidents and their rate increased by 46 percent.
Improved illumination is needed. Most pedestrian accidents occur on local roads, in the dark and away from intersections.
Attorneys can assist accident victims seek compensation. They can also protect their rights in trials and negotiations.