The number of pedestrians dying on America’s roads appears to be on the rise. While final reporting and analysis of 2018 traffic deaths are still underway, early estimates by NHTSA point to pedestrian deaths increasing 4% over the previous year. On average, a pedestrian died every 88 minutes in 2017 — accounting for 16% of all traffic fatalities.
By the numbers
Over the past decade, there’s been an increase in pedestrian fatalities. Deaths increased 35% when comparing 2008 and 2017 fatalities.
Distractions can be a factor in pedestrian crashes. Walkers wearing headphones or using a cell phone might not hear a car horn, or miss a traffic signal at a crosswalk; and distracted drivers may not see a pedestrian. It’s essential for both drivers and pedestrians to avoid distractions and be mindful of traffic laws.
While we know the dangers of driving drunk or high, it’s important to understand that walking while impaired can be dangerous too. An estimated 33% of pedestrians 16 and older who were killed in 2017 were drunk.
NHTSA offers tips for getting home safely if you’re impaired.
Safety Tips for Walkers and Drivers
Every day, millions of people use various forms of transportation to get around, and at some point everyone is a pedestrian. While out on the roads, keep these safety tips in mind every day.
- Walk on a sidewalk or path when one is available. If no sidewalk or path is available, walk facing traffic and as far from cars as possible.
- Never assume drivers see you; they could be distracted or impaired. It’s best to make eye contact with drivers to make sure you are seen, and to generally be aware of your surroundings – particularly when crossing the street.
- Always cross streets at marked crosswalks or signalized intersections whenever possible; this is where drivers expect pedestrians.
- If a marked crosswalk or intersection is not available, locate a well-lit area, wait for a gap in traffic that allows you enough time to cross safely, and continue to watch for traffic as you cross.
- Make yourself visible by wearing bright colored clothing during the day, and wear reflective materials (especially on arms, legs, and feet) or use a flashlight at night.
- Look for pedestrians everywhere. Pedestrians may be walking in unexpected areas, or may be hard to see — especially at night, in poorly lit areas, or in bad weather.
- Follow pedestrian safety laws in your state or local area — always stop or yield for pedestrians in the crosswalk.
- Never pass vehicles stopped at a crosswalk. They might be stopped to allow pedestrians to cross the street.
- Stay alert where children may be present, like in school zones and neighborhoods.
- Slow down and carefully adhere to posted speed limits, particularly in urban and pedestrian-heavy areas. Speed is one of the most important factors in pedestrian crash survivability.