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Dangerous driving behaviors lead to a 22% surge in the pedestrian death rate: GHSA

Photo: Colleen Michaels/iStockphoto

Washington — The rate of pedestrian deaths jumped more than 20% in the first half of 2020 as speeding, distracted driving and impaired driving increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a recently released report from the Governors Highway Safety Association.

The report is based on preliminary data that covers the first six months of the year from highway safety offices in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. An analysis of the data shows that 2,957 pedestrians were killed despite a 16.5% reduction in vehicle miles traveled – a result of quarantines and stay-at-home orders issued during the early months of the pandemic. The rate of pedestrian deaths rose to 2.2 per billion vehicle miles traveled – up from 1.8 the previous year, or about 22.2%.

In a press release, GHSA says that if the trend continued in the second half of the year, it expects the largest ever recorded annual increase in the U.S. pedestrian death rate per mile driven.


Twenty-seven states recorded an increase in their total number of pedestrian deaths, and seven states – Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, New York, North Carolina and Texas – accounted for more than half (54%) of the deaths. Meanwhile, 20 states and the district recorded decreases in their counts.

“Walking should not be a life and death undertaking, yet many factors have combined to put pedestrians at historic levels of risk,” GHSA Executive Director Jonathan Adkins said in the release. “The traffic safety community should focus on a comprehensive approach that uses every tool available to save lives, including engineering, community outreach, emergency response and equitable enforcement that prioritizes the prevention of driving behaviors – like speeding, distraction and impairment – that pose the greatest threats to nonmotorized road users.”

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