Pedestrian Deaths Hit 40-Year Peak: Why Fatalities Are Rising


US pedestrian fatalities are the highest since 1980, according to a new report by the Governors Highway Traffic Safety Association (GHSA). 

The nonprofit group annually reviews pedestrian fatalities to support safer roads. Unfortunately, this year’s report is nothing but bad news for the US and California in particular. It found that there were at least 7,508 pedestrian deaths nationwide in 2022. Based on previous years, the group estimates that the final number may be as high as 8,100. California accounted for more than 10% of those deaths.

This should alarm anyone who leaves their home. Pedestrians include everyone walking near traffic, whether that’s walking the dog, going to work, or just walking from the car into a store. Here’s what you need to know about the rising death rate and what you can do if you’re hurt in a pedestrian accident.

Pedestrian Deaths Are Skyrocketing

The past decade has been excellent for the US economy but increasingly dangerous for pedestrians. From 1980 through 2009, the fatality rate fell by half, from more than 8,000 to just over 4,000. However, in 2010, that trend reversed. The data shows that deaths skyrocketed over just 12 years to higher than in 1980.

California has been hit particularly hard. It has the nation’s third-highest pedestrian fatality rate per capita after New Mexico and Florida. The GHSA reports that the state had an average rate of 4.4 pedestrian deaths per 100,000 residents, making it one of the top 20 causes of death. If you live in California, you are statistically more likely to die in a pedestrian accident than to die of a stroke.

Examining Factors Contributing to Rising Pedestrian Deaths

But why are pedestrian accidents becoming so much more deadly? It’s not the victims’ fault. The GHSA analyzed trends correlating to the rise in deaths and identified several issues that make accidents more likely and more dangerous:

 Negligence and Carelessness of Drivers

2010 was when the economy began to recover from the Great Recession in 2008. Why is that linked to higher pedestrian fatalities? Because 2010 was the first year many people could afford their first smartphone. 

As a result, drivers were more distracted than ever before. The ubiquity of smartphones has made it extremely easy for the average person to look away from the road for “just a few seconds.” Unfortunately, that’s all it takes for a fatal accident. 

More Traffic and Busier Roads

Another underacknowledged result of the end of the Great Recession was busier roads. 2010 was the year when Uber first launched, giving many underemployed young people the ability to earn extra cash driving people around during their free time. 

While rideshare apps are convenient, they have been definitively linked to busier roads and more accidents. When more cars are on the road, particularly in urban areas where rideshares thrive, pedestrian injuries are more likely. 

Unique Risks Posed by Trucks to Pedestrians

Another result of the recession’s end was a pivot toward bigger cars. As the economy recovered and gas prices dropped, SUVs and pickup trucks became more common. So did accidents involving them, rising 120% compared to just 26% for standard passenger cars.

Unfortunately, these vehicles are more likely to be involved in pedestrian accidents and lead to worse outcomes for victims:

  • SUVs and pickups have significantly less visibility than traditional sedans, so drivers are less likely to see pedestrians and stop in time.
  • These vehicles take longer to stop, so accidents occur at higher speeds. 
  • Higher bumpers mean pedestrians are more likely to be hit in the chest or pushed under the vehicle. 

Infrastructural Deficiencies

State and municipal governments have played a role in the rising fatality rate, too. Many locations have prioritized vehicles over pedestrians to reduce traffic congestion. As a result, many areas have become actively dangerous for pedestrians. Some of the biggest infrastructural problems include:

  • Insufficient crosswalks and marked pedestrian zones: Most deaths occur along roads without sidewalks and away from crosswalks. Unfortunately, many projects intended to ease traffic congestions sacrifice sidewalks to add more lanes to the road.
  • Lack of safety barriers and adequate sidewalk infrastructure: Sidewalks along busy roads can still be dangerous without proper safety barriers. 
  • Poorly lit areas and lack of adequate signage: If drivers can’t see pedestrians, they’re more likely to hit them. Similarly, if drivers don’t know that a crosswalk is coming up, they are less likely to watch for people. 

What to Do If You’re Hit by a Car

If you live in Florida, car accidents are a very real danger. You can follow every traffic rule, avoid dangerous areas, and still get seriously hurt by a distracted driver. Here’s what you should do if you’re hit by a car:

  • Call 911. There’s very little gray area when a driver hits a pedestrian. Unless you are confident you’re uninjured, you should call 911 immediately. You may be disoriented and more badly injured than you realize. 
  • Get immediate medical care. Either let the paramedics inspect you or get a medical exam as soon as possible. This attention ensures you don’t have hidden injuries that will get worse over time and creates a paper trail documenting how you were hurt.
  • Get the driver’s information. Collect the driver’s name, license number, license plate, and insurance details at the accident scene, or get them later from the police report. 
  • Notify their insurance. It is best practice to notify the driver’s insurance policy as soon as reasonably possible, ideally within one day of the accident. 
  • Talk to a Florida pedestrian accident lawyer. Do not respond to the insurance company until you have spoken to a skilled accident attorney. 

Insurance companies have entire legal departments dedicated to paying as few claims as possible. If you’ve been hit by a car, you should have a lawyer on your side, too. At the Law Offices of Gomez & Gomez, we can help.Our skilled attorneys have spent years representing Florida accident victims from our offices in Miami. We can help you hold drivers accountable for their negligence and help you pursue damages to cover your medical bills, lost income, and pain and suffering. Learn more about how we can help you by scheduling your consultation today.

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