Pedestrian Fatalities Are a Growing Epidemic in the United States

Every time they travel on foot, pedestrians put their lives at risk. The human body is no match for a motor vehicle during a collision, which makes pedestrians the most vulnerable population on the road.

According to preliminary data prepared by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), there were nearly 6,000 pedestrian deaths nationwide in 2016. This is an 11 percent increase from 2015 data and the highest total in nearly two decades.

"Everyone walks, and we want to encourage that, but at the same time we want to make sure that we all get to our destinations safely," Jonathan Adkins, GHSA Executive Director, said in a recent press release. "Unfortunately, this latest data shows that the U.S. is not meeting the mark on keeping pedestrians safe on our roadways."

Researchers attribute this dramatic rise in pedestrian fatalities to several factors, including an increased number of people driving and walking on our roadways. Alcohol use also continues to be problematic. But perhaps the most drastic distraction, and one that can be prevented, is use of cellphones and other electronic devices. Both pedestrians and drivers can become easily distracted by calling, texting, updating social media and using other phone apps.

In its report, the GHSA encourages states to continue their efforts to reduce pedestrian fatalities. They also provide current examples from 41 states and the District of Columbia. For Indiana, the GHSA reports educational efforts by the City of Bloomington, grant funds used to enforce traffic laws, particularly in school zones, and efforts to improve pedestrian signals and add safety zones throughout Indianapolis by the Alliance for Health Promotion.