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Pedestrian deaths projected to reach highest level since 1990: GHSA report

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Washington — Pedestrian deaths in the United States are on pace to reach their highest mark in nearly 30 years, according to a new report from the Governors Highway Safety Association.

After analyzing preliminary data from highway safety offices in all 50 states and the District of Columbia for the first half of 2018, GHSA projects a total of 6,227 pedestrian deaths for the year, the most since 6,482 such deaths were recorded in 1990. If the estimate holds true, pedestrian fatalities will have increased 51.5 percent since 2009 (4,109 deaths).

GHSA notes that, over the past three years, about 75 percent of the fatalities occurred at night, and approximately half involved alcohol impairment by either drivers or pedestrians. Cellphone use – a significant factor in distracted driving and walking – has increased sharply since 2009.

Pedestrian deaths in Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia and Texas accounted for 46 percent of the national total in the first half of 2018. The report notes that the five states represent 33 percent of the U.S. population, according to 2018 Census figures.

New Mexico had the highest rate of pedestrian deaths per 100,000 residents (2.26); New Hampshire had the lowest (0.07).

“Crossing the street should not be a death sentence,” report author Richard Retting said in a GHSA press release. “We have a range of proven infrastructure, engineering and behavioral strategies that we know can reduce pedestrian deaths. Critical improvements to road and vehicle design are being made, but take significant time and resources to implement. It is also important to conduct law enforcement and safety education campaigns now to ensure drivers and pedestrians can safely coexist. It’s crucial to do everything we can to protect pedestrians utilizing a broad approach.”

The report also states that sales of light trucks have increased while sales of lighter passenger cars have declined, meaning there are more vehicles that can cause greater harm to pedestrians if struck.

In a statement issued Feb. 28, the National Safety Council states that it is “troubled” by the report.

“People rarely are more vulnerable than when they are negotiating traffic, crossing busy streets or walking at night,” the statement reads. “Add in driver and pedestrian distraction, as well as impairment, and the results can be deadly. With the annual number of motor vehicle deaths staying stubbornly flat, more attention must be paid to the unprotected individuals who share our roads with countless multi-ton vehicles. And, better data collection is needed to understand all the various reasons these fatalities are occurring.”

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