U.S. pedestrian death rate keeps climbing, worst in decades

More distractions, walkers, SUVs — 'The alarm bells continue to sound'

DETROIT — The number of pedestrians killed on U.S. roads last year was the highest in 28 years, according to a report from a safety organization.

Using data reported by states, the Governors Highway Safety Association estimates that 6,227 pedestrians were killed last year. That's up 4 percent from 2017 and 35 percent since 2008.

The association blames the increase on factors that include distracted or impaired drivers, more people walking to work, and more SUVs on the road, which cause more severe injuries in collisions with people on foot.

It also says most deaths happen on local roads at night and away from intersections, and it called for safer road crossings. Night crashes accounted for more than 90 percent of the increased deaths over the past decade.

"While we have made progress reducing fatalities among many other road users in the past decade, pedestrian deaths have risen 35 percent," Jonathan Adkins, the association's executive director, said in a statement issued Thursday. "The alarm bells continue to sound on this issue."

This report comes on the heels of recent IIHS testing of automatic emergency braking systems designed to mitigate collisions with pedestrians. The IIHS evaluated 11 small SUVs with the technology and gave "Superior" ratings to four of them. Accompanying the report was its recommendation to automakers to include pedestrian detection systems on all models.

Total automotive-related fatalities in the U.S. last year went down even as pedestrian-specific deaths went up. That's from a National Safety Council report, which also cited the rise in pedestrian deaths. Today's GHSA report provides 2018 statistics confirming that.

The report from the GHSA also called for law enforcement and safety education campaigns to make sure drivers and walkers can safely coexist, as well as for road safety audits.

It said that 23 states saw declines in pedestrian deaths during the first half of last year, with six states reporting double-digit drops. Examples of what worked in those states were outlined by the study, with factors including: targeted law enforcement efforts; outreach in high-risk areas; pedestrian safety assessments and road safety audits; support for engineering efforts; and adoption of Complete Streets policies.

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