Why Do Pedestrian Deaths Keep Happening in the U.S.?

The news is not good, and neither are the statistics. As of 2022, pedestrian fatalities have once again risen to the highest levels in 40 years. At least 7,388 pedestrians died on U.S. roads in 2021. In 2022, that number increased to 7,522. 

To put these numbers into perspective, they are the same as the entire population of a small U.S. town. Pedestrians are not only dying but sustaining terrible injuries due to traffic violence. These incidents have increased by at least 11% in 2021 alone. 

What is the driving factor behind all this death and injury on American roads? Why is it that the simple act of walking has become one of the most dangerous activities in this country? 

The alarming trend of pedestrian deaths deserves an urgent closer look before it turns into an unstoppable public safety crisis.

There Are Too Many Parts to This Escalating Problem

There is no single factor to point to behind the rising pedestrian death toll. This has become a complex issue driver by several factors, including the following:

Dangerous Driver Behavior

There is a frightening lack of consideration for pedestrians throughout the U.S. Motorists display reckless behavior on the roads, particularly speeding. Higher speeds leave drivers with far less reaction time should a pedestrian suddenly cross the road. This often leads to severe collisions, leaving pedestrians injured or dead.

Moreover, too many drivers still use mobile phones to call or text while driving. Doing this cuts down on driver awareness and reaction time–not to mention driving under the influence, which makes the danger that much more real.

Insufficient Infrastructure

Unfortunately, American road infrastructure often does not help the situation. Too many roads still prioritize car traffic over pedestrian safety. Some roads have wide lanes with only sporadic crosswalks. Others have little to no lighting, creating a hazardous environment for pedestrians.

A lack of dedicated pedestrian sidewalks, especially in suburban and rural areas, can force pedestrians to share the road with vehicles. Doing this puts them at significant risk of injury or death.

Changing Demographics

More drivers are buying SUVs and trucks, which poses another risk to pedestrians. These larger vehicles, with their high hoods plus reckless driving, are a lethal combination for pedestrians. 

These cars often strike pedestrians in the torso or head during an accident, causing severe injuries. Additionally, older people are more vulnerable to this type of accident as they may have slower reflexes and declining vision. This is another reason safer infrastructure is so important. 

The Effect of the Pandemic

It may seem strange, but the pandemic has worsened the pedestrian death situation. Experts believe that the sudden change in traffic patterns, including a decline in car traffic and a rise in cycling and walking, may have contributed to a rise in pedestrian-vehicle collisions. 

It is also possible that stress-related driving behaviors like speeding and distractions may have played a role in the increase in pedestrian deaths during the pandemic. 

Social and Economic Inconsistencies

It is also true that pedestrian fatalities do not happen in equal numbers across different communities and suburbs. It has been established that low-income communities often have even poorer infrastructure, with fewer sidewalks and crosswalks. 

Residents may also not have access to cars or public transport, forcing them to walk to where they want to be. This creates a dangerous situation, especially for children and older people. 

What Are the Best Solutions?

Just as many factors play a role in pedestrian deaths, there are also many factors to consider when seeking solutions. Some of the potential solutions include the following:

  • Traffic calming: Measures should be put in place to deter speeding and reckless drivers. Traffic calming strategies often work well, especially in areas with high pedestrian traffic. They may include roundabouts, an extra set of traffic lights, a stop street, or speed bumps. 

These measures force drivers to slow down and automatically become more aware of their surroundings and pedestrians. 

  • New and improved infrastructure: It is simply not good enough to revamp old infrastructure. There must be considerable investment in new, pedestrian-friendly infrastructure. This includes building more sidewalks and even dedicated bike lanes in areas with lots of pedestrians. 

Improved crosswalk visibility will make it safer for pedestrians to cross the road. This alone can significantly reduce collisions. 

Moreover, there should be a push for ‘slow zones’ in high-speed traffic areas to improve road safety.

More visible law enforcement: Not only should there be stricter enforcement of traffic laws, but traffic officers should be more visible on the roads. This can help prevent speeding, distracted driving, and driving under the influence. Another option is harsher penalties for drivers who cause pedestrian accidents and fatalities.

  • Public awareness campaigns: Not everyone believes that public awareness campaigns work. However, it is still important to educate both drivers and pedestrians about the dangers of the roads. 

More campaigns should focus on the dangers of reckless and distracted driving. These campaigns should highlight the importance of obeying speed limits. 

Furthermore, separate campaigns should educate pedestrians on safe walking practices. This includes actively looking for crosswalks and not wearing dark clothes when walking at night. 

All safety efforts can ultimately have a positive impact over the long term.  

  • Making the most of technology: Technology can also play a massive role in reducing pedestrian fatalities. For example, advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) can warn drivers of pedestrians well ahead of time. This system can even hit the brakes automatically to avoid a collision.

It is critical to invest in the development and implementation of technologies that can save lives.

A Call to Action Not to Be Ignored

The rising pedestrian death toll is far more than just concerning. It is a national tragedy. Each pedestrian that dies on a U.S. road leaves behind friends and family. They leave behind a gaping hole in their community and workplace. 

Pedestrian deaths are more than just numbers. These are real people who will never get to live the lives they dreamed of. Authorities must acknowledge this and start implementing the measures to make American roads safer.

Photo of author

Author: James

Published on:

Published in: