Analysis: What’s Behind Pedestrian Highway Deaths?

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The Governors Highway Safety Association shared that almost 20% of pedestrian deaths in 2021 occurred on highways, revealing that pedestrians need to be provided with a safer route for getting from one place to another.

As recently released data by the Governors Highway Safety Association revealed, almost 20% of pedestrian deaths in 2021 occurred on freeways and interstate highways. Noting that the GHSA speculated that those fatalities were largely among drivers who exited their vehicles, first responders, tow truck drivers, and construction workers, an analysis by Streetsblog proposes that this may not actually be the case. Citing data by the Insurance Institute for Highway, the analysis poses that many of those pedestrians may have been people who willingly chose “or had no choice but to” walk on such dangerous roads.

According to the IIHS study cited by Streetsblog, merely one percent of pedestrian highway fatalities were among construction workers, while a somewhat larger—but still fairly small—18% were among people whose cars had been “disabled.” The highest share of fatalities, 42%, were among pedestrians crossing highways and freeways; another ten percent, meanwhile, were traveling by foot through the shoulder, while six percent were “standing, lying, playing or walking” in the road, per the report. In other words, nearly 60% of pedestrian fatalities analyzed in the IIHS study were among pedestrians who came into the highway by foot rather than by vehicle.

As one of the IIHS study’s authors said in a statement to Streetsblog, the findings suggest a fundamental problem with urban design, a failure to provide pedestrians with a safe route they evidently need to get from one place to another. “It really points to the fact that people trying to get across these high speed roads without having a better way of getting there, and that’s something really need to deal with,” she said, proposing that cities can become safer by adding pedestrian infrastructure to their highways and freeways: crossing bridges, overpasses and underpasses, as well as more street lighting.

More information about the Insurance Institute for Highway’s findings about highway and freeway pedestrian car crash deaths is available via the IIHS and Streetsblog.

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