Pedestrian accidents and deaths rose to an unprecedented high in 2020, according to disturbing new data from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA). Despite the reduction in motor vehicle traffic last year due to the pandemic, pedestrian fatalities increased at a rate of 20%. This is the largest annual increase ever recorded.
Here is a closer look at these startling statistics and what they mean for Michigan pedestrians and motorists.
The data can be confusing if you look at the number of pedestrians killed on U.S. roads in 2020 (6,721 deaths) compared to 2019 (6,412 deaths). This means the actual pedestrian death toll increased by 309, or 4.8%, from 2019 to 2020.
However, to achieve an accurate picture of the percentage variations from year to year, calculations are based on the number of pedestrian deaths per billion vehicle miles traveled (VMT). Therefore, given that there were approximately 16.5% fewer cars on the road during 2020, pedestrian fatalities actually rose by 20%.
Nonetheless, pedestrian death rates varied across the country. There was an increase in 31 states plus the District of Columbia (D.C.), while 19 states reported fewer deaths than in 2019. In 11 of those states, pedestrian deaths declined by double-digits.
Unfortunately, Michigan is one of the states that experienced a rise in pedestrian fatalities. Last year, despite the pandemic-related decrease in traffic, 177 pedestrians died on Michigan roadways compared to 149 pedestrians in 2019. Based on vehicle miles traveled (VMT), this represents an increase of 19%.
Traffic safety experts attribute the rise in pedestrian deaths to the following factors:
Recommended reading: What You Need to Know about Michigan Crosswalk Laws
While the new statistics are certainly cause for distress, pedestrian deaths have regrettably been surging for the last several years.
Over the past decade, pedestrian fatalities rose 46% compared to a 5% increase in fatalities from all other traffic accidents.
GHSA Executive Director Jonathan Adkins referred to the situation as the next “public health emergency” and stressed the importance of implementing measures to protect pedestrians and address dangerous driving behaviors such as speeding, distraction and drug and alcohol impairment.
Recommended reading: Pedestrian Deaths Increase in the Motor City
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