Pedestrian Fatalities Projected to Spike 10% in 2015

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News Releases

March 8, 2016

Contact: Kara Macek,
202-789-0942 x140

Pedestrian Fatalities Projected to Spike 10% in 2015

Anticipated to be Largest Annual Increase Ever

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) estimates a 10% increase in the number of persons on foot killed in traffic crashes in 2015, compared with the prior year. This annual GHSA Spotlight on Highway Safety Report provides the first look at 2015 pedestrian fatality trends, based on preliminary data reported by all 50 state highway safety agencies and the District of Columbia. This latest report was authored by Richard Retting and Dr. Heather Rothenberg of Sam Schwartz Consulting.

“We are projecting the largest year-to-year increase in pedestrian fatalities since national records have been kept, and therefore we are quite alarmed,” said Retting. Since the Fatality Analysis Reporting System was established in 1975, the year-to-year change in the number of pedestrian fatalities has varied from a 10.5% decrease to an 8.1% increase. “Pedestrian safety is clearly a growing problem across the country. It is important to understand the data underlying these crashes so states and localities can apply the right mix of engineering, education and enforcement to counteract this troubling trend.”

Comparing the number of pedestrian fatalities for the first six months of 2015 (2,368) with the same time period the previous year (2,232), and adjusting for anticipated underreporting associated with the preliminary data, the researchers anticipate the final 2015 pedestrian fatality total will be approximately 10% higher than in 2014. Along with the increase in pedestrian fatalities, pedestrians now account for a larger share − about 15% of all motor vehicle crash-related deaths − compared with 11% a decade ago.

Many factors could be contributing to this spike. An increase in motor vehicle travel, fueled in part by improved economic conditions and lower gas prices, coupled with the growing use of cell phones among walkers and drivers may be partially to blame. Additionally, vehicles are becoming more and more “crashworthy,” meaning the likelihood of drivers and passengers surviving a crash is improving all the time. By contrast, pedestrians remain just as susceptible to injuries when hit by a motor vehicle.

Another important factor is the increase in the number of Americans walking for health, economic or environmental reasons. This underscores the need to create safe, walkable pathways and ensure that people who drive and people who walk both understand and follow the rules of the road, so everyone arrives at their destination safely.

States reported a wide range of increases and decreases in the number of pedestrian fatalities over the first six months of 2015. Twenty-one states had decreases; 26 states and the District of Columbia reported increases; and three states had no change.

Not surprisingly, more pedestrian fatalities tend to occur in large states with large urban centers: California, Florida, Texas and New York accounted for 42 percent of all pedestrian deaths in the first six months of 2015. However, when population is taken into account, the states with the highest fatality rate per 100,000 population were all over the map. In 2014, the seven states with the highest rates were New Mexico, Florida, Delaware, Nevada, Louisiana, South Carolina and Arizona.

“GHSA and our member states will continue to make pedestrian safety a priority,” said Jonathan Adkins, GHSA Executive Director. “The recently passed federal surface transportation bill, the FAST Act, will give states more resources and flexibility to address their most pressing pedestrian safety problems. We look forward to working with NHTSA and our other partners to drive down these numbers and move toward zero deaths.”

In addition to collecting the state data, GHSA also asked its state members to share examples of strategies underway to reduce pedestrian and motor vehicle collisions. Some of the most promising approaches include: targeted traffic enforcement coupled with public information campaigns; data analysis and mapping to identify high-risk zones; community-based pedestrian safety assessments and road safety audits; and strategic partnerships with universities or other organizations. The report provides examples of these efforts in 28 states.

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About GHSA

The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) is a nonprofit association representing the highway safety offices of states, territories, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. GHSA provides leadership and representation for the states and territories to improve traffic safety, influence national policy, enhance program management and promote best practices. Its members are appointed by their Governors to administer federal and state highway safety funds and implement state highway safety plans. Contact GHSA at 202-789-0942 or visit Find us on Facebook at or follow us on Twitter @GHSAHQ.