Pedestrian Fatalities on the Rise

The numbers are on the rise, and are alarming. Pedestrian fatalities in the United States have increased over the past 10 years. Between the years 2008 and 2017, 49,340 pedestrian fatalities occurred in the US. That is equal to one death occurring every one hour and forty-six minutes.

Why the increase? Although a variety of factors are at play, a major cause is based in design: The majority of US roads are designed to move cars at a rapid pace.

Cars driving on a street approaching the crosswalk.
Streets in the United States are designed to move cars quickly.

Smart Growth America, an organization dedicated to assisting cities in becoming more economically prosperous, socially equitable, and environmentally sustainable places to live, recently published its 2019 “Dangerous by Design” report. This report chronicled the very preventable epidemic of pedestrian fatalities occurring on our nation’s roads. The following are some key points from the article:

  • The years 2016 & 2017 were the deadliest for pedestrians since 1990.
  • In the past decade, the number of pedestrian fatalities increased 35%.
  • Despite the facts that people are not walking more, Americans drive only slightly more than they did in 2008, and the act of driving itself has become safer, there has been a significant increase in pedestrian fatalities.
  • The basic purpose of our streets is not changing; streets have always been designed for the movement of vehicles.
  • Federal and state policies, standards, and funding mechanisms continue to produce roads that prioritize high vehicular speeds over pedestrian safety.

The Dangerous by Design report recommends penalties for states which exhibit an increase in pedestrian fatalities.  Currently, states are required only to report the number of pedestrian fatalities; however, states are not penalized for demonstrating high numbers, or increasing numbers. Smart Growth America recommends that states be required to use a portion of their highway safety funding budgets towards the implementation of traffic-calming measures, such as medians, protected crosswalks, bike lanes and updated lights. However, the Coalition’s director believes that, in order for change to take place, a culture shift needs to occur, as pedestrian deaths caused by vehicle is currently far too “acceptable.”

Scott Bonebrake is a personal injury attorney in Media, PA, and has been a licensed attorney for 24 years. Please feel free to contact Scott if you have any legal questions, including those regarding traffic related accidents. You can reach Scott at 610-892-7700, or at