Drivers in the United States struck and killed 3,434 people in the first half of 2022 – up 5%, or 168 more deaths, from the same period the year before, according to a new analysis from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA).
This deeply troubling projection follows a 40-year high in pedestrian deaths in 2021 and continues a gruesome decade-long trend of more people dying while walking on U.S. roads.
GHSA’s annual Spotlight on Highway Safety report offers the first look at state and national trends in 2022 pedestrian traffic deaths based on preliminary data provided by State Highway Safety Offices (SHSOs). The data analysis found that the recent increase in pedestrian deaths is even more alarming when looking back to 2019, the last pre-pandemic year. Pedestrian deaths have surged 18%, or 519 additional lives lost, between the first half of 2019 and 2022.
“There is a pedestrian safety crisis on our roads, and it’s only gotten worse since the start of the pandemic,” said GHSA Chief Executive Officer Jonathan Adkins. “A single roadway death is tragic. But it’s absolutely mind-boggling and heartbreaking that drivers are killing an average of 19 pedestrians every single day. The only way to reverse this awful trend is to do more of everything that works – more and better designed infrastructure to keep people walking safe, equitable enforcement of traffic safety laws to stop dangerous driving and engaging more communities where the impacts of this crisis are felt the hardest.”
Nationally, there were 1.04 pedestrian deaths per 100,000 people in 2022, up significantly from 0.90 in 2019. The data analysis was conducted by Elizabeth Petraglia, Ph.D., of research firm Westat.
Over the past ten years, pedestrian deaths in the first half of the year skyrocketed from 2,141 in 2013 to 3,434 in 2022 – a 60% increase, or nearly 1,300 additional lives lost. Overall traffic fatalities have also been surging since the start of the pandemic. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that 31,785 people died in crashes in the first nine months of 2022, a marginal decrease that comes on the heels of nearly 43,000 roadway deaths in 2021, the most since 2005.
Why are more people walking dying on U.S. roads? A combination of factors, including a surge in dangerous driving that began at the start of the pandemic and has not lessened; larger, heavier vehicles that are more likely to seriously injure or kill people on foot in the event of a crash; roads designed to prioritize fast-moving traffic over slower speeds that are safer for pedestrians; and inadequate infrastructure such as sidewalks, crosswalks and lighting in many parts of the country.
At the state level, pedestrian fatalities increased in 24 states during the first half of 2022. Twenty-one states experienced declines, and the number of pedestrian deaths was unchanged in four states. While 15 states reported consecutive years of more pedestrian fatalities (January-June), only two states reported two straight years of decreases. Oklahoma was unable to provide projections in time for this publication and is therefore omitted from the data analysis conducted for this report.
To combat this problem, GHSA supports a comprehensive solution based on the Safe System approach 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 – contribute in different but overlapping ways to provide a multi-layered safety net that can protect people on foot as well as other road users. GHSA is committed to supporting the NRSS and the Safe System approach as holistic strategies to protect people outside of vehicles.
The data analysis also found that three states – California, Florida and Texas – accounted for 38% of all pedestrian deaths in the first six months of 2022 but are home to 28% of the U.S. population.
GHSA will publish a second, comprehensive Spotlight report this spring that will include state fatality projections for all of 2022, an analysis of 2021 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.