Pedestrian Fatalities, United States, 1990-2020

Pedestrian Fatalities United States 1990 2020

Source: Governors Highway Safety Association.

Like in many developed economies, the number of pedestrian fatalities has been steadily decreasing in the United States, particularly because of better vehicle design and road safety (e.g. more pedestrian crossings and speed limits in high-risk areas). However, since the late 2000s, the trend has reversed, and pedestrian fatalities are on the rise. Although there is no single factor behind this trend, the following elements can be brought forward:

  • Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) account for a growing share of vehicles in circulation, implying a sharp rise in pedestrian fatalities involving an SUV (50% of all cases). Since SUVs are larger and take more time to stop, they are more likely than cars to kill pedestrians if a collision occurs.
  • A larger share of the population is living in suburbia, where there are fewer amenities for pedestrians and where the average driving speed is higher.
  • More difficult to assess are the distractions conveyed to both pedestrians and drivers by portable devices such as smartphones. Although the usage of portable devices while driving is forbidden by most laws, transgressions are common. Further, pedestrians are increasingly distracted while walking by using their devices.