U.S. Pedestrian Deaths Fall Slightly in First Half of 2023, but Remain Above Pre-Pandemic Levels

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News Releases

February 27, 2024

Contact: Adam Snider, 202-580-7930, 202-365-8971 (after hours)

Despite modest progress, dangerous driving and inadequate infrastructure continue to pose deadly threat to people walking

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Drivers in the United States struck and killed 3,373 people in the first half of 2023, down slightly from the year before, according to a new analysis from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA). While this modest 4% decrease in pedestrian fatalities is welcome news, deaths have risen a shocking 14% since 2019, the last pre-pandemic year. The number of people killed while walking reached a four-decade high of more than 7,500 in 2022.

GHSA’s annual Spotlight on Highway Safety report offers the first look at state and national trends in pedestrian traffic deaths from January through June 2023 based on preliminary data provided by State Highway Safety Offices (SHSOs). The data analysis found that 153 fewer pedestrians were killed in the first half of 2023 compared to the same period in 2022. However, there were 422 more fatalities than in 2019, the last year before the pandemic upended travel patterns. The rise in pedestrian deaths is even more stark when looking back at the past decade – fatalities have risen a staggering 58% between the first half of 2013 and 2023. The data analysis was conducted by Elizabeth Petraglia, Ph.D., of research firm Westat.

A combination of factors creates this deadly situation for people walking on U.S. roadways. A steep drop in traffic enforcement across the country since 2020 has enabled dangerous driving behaviors – including speeding and driving impaired – to flourish. At the same time, roads are largely designed to prioritize fast-moving vehicle traffic instead of slower speeds that are safer for people walking. Many parts of the country lack infrastructure – such as sidewalks, crosswalks and lighting – that help protect people on foot. The U.S. vehicle fleet is increasingly dominated by larger, heavier vehicles that are more likely to injure or kill people walking.

To help address this pedestrian safety crisis, GHSA supports a holistic solution rooted in the Safe System approach that is outlined in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Roadway Safety Strategy (NRSS). Each of the five elements of this approach – safe road users, safe vehicles, safe speeds, safe roads and post-crash care – combine to create a multi-layered safety net that can protect people inside and outside of vehicles.

“After witnessing pedestrian deaths rise each year, it’s encouraging to finally see a small decrease,” said GHSA Chief Executive Officer Jonathan Adkins. “But the fact remains that 18 people go for a walk every day and don’t return home due to preventable crashes. The only acceptable number of traffic deaths is zero. We must seize on this recent momentum and continue to push for a safer system that protects people on foot from the dangerous driving behaviors that are all too prevalent.”

The decline in pedestrian deaths in the first half of 2023 mirrors the recent trend in overall traffic fatalities. Total roadway deaths fell 3.3% during the first six months of last year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). However, much like pedestrian deaths, overall traffic fatalities remain far above pre-pandemic levels. The 19,515 roadway deaths reported in the first half of 2023 are up 15% from 17,025 during the same period in 2019.

At the state level, this latest GHSA report indicates that pedestrian fatalities decreased in 29 states and the District of Columbia. Eighteen states experienced increases, and the number of pedestrian deaths was unchanged in three states. Eight states reported two consecutive decreases in pedestrian fatalities for the first half of the year, while six have experienced two straight increases.

The data analysis also found that three states – California, Florida and Texas – accounted for 37% of all pedestrian deaths in the first six months of 2023, even though they are home to 27% of the U.S. population. These states have warmer climates, which tend to increase travel on foot, as well as many urban areas where pedestrians and motor vehicles are more likely to share the road.

GHSA will publish a second, comprehensive Spotlight report later this year that will include state pedestrian fatality projections for all of 2023, an analysis of 2022 data from NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) and an overview of proven strategies states and communities are employing to reduce pedestrian crashes and injuries.

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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. Visit ghsa.org for more information or find us on Facebook and X/Twitter.