Apr 13, 2022 - Economy

Pedestrian fatalities rose post-pandemic lockdown

Percentage change in pedestrian fatalities per 100k people
Data: Governors Highway Safety Association; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

As lockdowns eased in the second year of the pandemic, the number of people struck and killed by drivers rose in many states, according to a new report by the Governors Highway Safety Association.

Driving the news: Pedestrian fatalities increased in all but 11 states during the first six months of 2021 compared with the same period of 2020, with 3,441 people killed while they walked near roadways.

  • Fatalities were up 17% for the first half of 2021 compared with 2020, the report said.

Why it matters: The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) says that its "Safe System" approach to traffic safety could make a big dent in the problem.

  • The approach — which helped reduce road deaths in Australia by 47% and in Spain by 80% — envisions "creating a transportation system that accommodates human mistakes and keeps impacts on the human body at survivable levels," the GHSA says.
  • The association's five-step system involves educating consumers about everything from driver impairment to seat belts, enforcing speed limits and road safety measures, and investing in post-crash care.

Details: Thirty-nine states and the District of Columbia had increases in pedestrian fatalities during the period studied, while only 11 states had decreases.

  • The states with the biggest increase in the number of pedestrian deaths were Florida, South Carolina, Georgia, Texas and New York.
  • The states with the biggest increase in the percentage of pedestrian deaths were Vermont, Maine, Wyoming, South Carolina and Massachusetts. (Because states vary widely in population, just a small shift in fatality numbers can represent a large change in percentages.)
  • Connecticut saw the largest drop in number (-11), followed by North Carolina (-10) and Kansas and Missouri (-8).
  • Nebraska saw the largest percentage drop (-67%), followed by Connecticut (-39%) and New Hampshire (-38%).

Silver lining: Hawaii, Nebraska and Virginia had "two consecutive years of declines in pedestrian fatalities in the first half of the year, while Connecticut and North Carolina both experienced double-digit declines," per the report.

Thomas Wheatley's angle from Axios Atlanta: Most roads in Georgia and metro Atlanta are designed to move cars as quickly and efficiently as possible, a choice by local and state governments that puts pedestrians and cyclists at great risk for serious injuries or death.

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