Pedestrian Deaths Are Surging Across the U.S.

By Sol Chung, age 12 and IndyKids staff

The number of pedestrians killed on roads in the United States is at its highest level in 40 years, with 20 people killed by cars every day, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA). The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that the daily number of deaths from cars every day has increased 77% from 2010 to 2021.

Road deaths have been rising due to unsafe infrastructure, a lack of pedestrian crossings, and the presence of more SUVs, which are larger, heavier and have more blind spots and, as such, are more deadly than smaller cars. In addition to this, during the pandemic there were fewer cars and emptier roads, meaning drivers became more likely to speed and drive recklessly. Even after nationwide quarantines ended, the reckless driving stuck. 

New Mexico has proven to be the deadliest state for pedestrians, ranking worst in the pedestrian fatality rate per 100,000 people for the last seven years. Following close behind are South Carolina, Mississippi and Florida, according to GHSA findings, while Maine had the least. Like the United States, Switzerland and Ireland have also had more road deaths in the last decade. However, in many other countries road accidents have decreased by up to 27%, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. 

Sadly, the majority of pedestrian deaths are avoidable, and there are proven, cost-effective strategies that cities can implement to reduce road fatalities. However, cars in the United States are often given priority over the safety of pedestrians. “Motor vehicles are first, highways are first,” explained Jennifer Homendy, chair of the National Transportation Safety Board, to NPR.

Local lawmakers need to prioritize the safety of pedestrians by implementing lower speed limits and creating roundabouts at busy intersections. These are traffic calming laws, which can help decrease car accidents and road deaths. Other traffic calming measures include having sharp corners to make drivers pay attention and slow down, building pedestrian islands as a safe place for people crossing the road to avoid getting hit and red light cameras to decrease dangerous driving.

It’s important to always keep road safety in mind when near any traffic, keep to pedestrian crosswalks and use pedestrian walk signals wherever possible, and always remember to STOP and look both ways before ever entering a roadway.

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