May 20, 2022 - Health

Pedestrian deaths hit 40-year high

A graphic of a car moving into a crosswalk.

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Pedestrian deaths reached a 40-year high last year, according to preliminary data from the Governors Highway Safety Association.

By the numbers: Drivers struck and killed more than 7,400 people in 2021, and the percentage of children killed by speeding drivers more than doubled since 2018.

Pedestrian traffic fatalities, 2000–2021
Data: Governors Highway Safety Association; Chart: Jacque Schrag/Axios

State of play: Impaired driving and increased speeding contributed to the rise in pedestrian deaths, said Russ Martin, GHSA’s Senior Director of Policy and Government Relations.

  • "You also have this thought that well, I could be on a ventilator by the end of the week, I should take advantage of the time that I have. I think everyone's out there trying live their best life with an increased sense of urgency," he said.
  • "So when it comes to the roadway, maybe that has contributed to more of a me first kind of attitude."
  • Martin also pointed to larger vehicles on the road and crumbling infrastructure. Separating cars from pedestrians is one of the most effective engineering interventions, he said.

The big picture: Data out this week from the Department of Transportation also revealed that an estimated 42,915 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes in the U.S. in 2021, the highest number of traffic fatalities since 2005.

  • That's a 10.5% increase from 2020, when 38,824 deaths were reported.

Go deeper: Pedestrian deaths are surging

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