Report: Pedestrian deaths reached their highest level in 40 years

Pedestrians are dying at a shocking rate, with 7,522 killed by drivers in 2022. According to a new study titled “Dangerous by Design,” from Smart Growth America, that’s a 75 percent increase since 2010, the highest number in 40 years.

Smart Growth’s data showed that pedestrian deaths have decreased only three times since 2010. However, there was a significant jump between 2020 and 2021, when the number climbed from 6,565 to 7,388, which coincides with reports of increased traffic deaths for drivers.

The highest risks came from lower-income areas, with nearly five times the number of people dying in the lowest median household income brackets than those in the highest. Smart Growth pointed out that households with incomes below $50,000 only account for 17 percent of the overall population but make up 30 percent of all pedestrian deaths.

People aged 50 to 64 were the most likely to be killed, though the over-75 group isn’t far behind. Younger people may only be injured in a crash that would be fatal for an older pedestrian, with the data showing a tiny number of deaths in the zero to 19 age group.

There were even more disparities when Smart Growth looked at race and ethnicity. American Indians and Alaska Natives died at more than twice the rate of the next highest group, with 6.81 deaths per 100,000 people. Black Americans were second likeliest to die, at 3.40 per 100,000. The study found that between 2018 and 2022, 254 pedestrians were killed on Indigenous reservations, registering a much higher rate than the U.S. average at the time.

Smart Growth pointed out that our streets are designed to move cars quickly, which often comes at the expense of pedestrian safety. It said that the solutions can be simple and affordable, but only a handful of major metro areas have taken steps forward. Detroit has seen a 40 percent decrease in pedestrian deaths since making updates. Buffalo reached a 50 percent decrease by working to slow traffic speeds and encourage more bike use.

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