Pedestrian deaths are set to hit a 30-year high in America and government regulators are blaming SUVs and distracted driving for the record-setting number. According to a new report by the Governors Highway Safety Association, the number of pedestrian deaths in 2018 increased by 250 people – bringing the total to a tragic 6,227 pedestrian deaths in America last year. According to the federal agency, the number of pedestrian deaths increased a whopping 51.5 percent since 2009. Less than a decade ago, America’s pedestrian death rate hit an all-time low of 4,109 following decades of declining pedestrian deaths caused by increases in safety technology and stricter enforcement of traffic safety laws.
Despite the continued innovations of safety technology, America’s pedestrian death rate has increased every year in the last decade. Traffic safety experts say that SUVs are a large part of the problem, noting that SUVs, which have outsold passenger cars since 2014, are more likely to kill pedestrians because of their larger size. A report by The Free Detroit Press bears out this theory finding that passenger deaths caused by passenger vehicles have increased only 30 percent since 2013, while deaths caused by SUVs have increased 50 percent during the same time period. Like other parts of American life, cell phones have also changed America’s driving habits and, unsurprisingly, contributed to more pedestrian deaths. According to AAA, wireless data usage increased by 4,000 percent between 2010 and 2017. The same report found that 49 percent of Americans talk on the phone while driving and 35 percent say they send emails and text. The final contributing factor, according to traffic safety experts, involves the higher percentage of Americans walking to work.
Bucking the nationwide trend, New York City has seen pedestrian deaths fall sharply over the last decade as a result of Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero program. Last year, there were 111 pedestrian deaths in New York City – a slight uptick from 106 in the previous year but still down from the 140 pedestrian deaths in 2014. The number of pedestrian injuries, on the other hand, has increased by 18 percent during the same time period. According to The New York Post, collisions resulting in injuries increased from 37,556 to 44,508 between 2014 and 2018.
City officials attribute the increase to record-level congestion on New York streets which lead to “blocked intersections and more irritable drivers,” according to Transportation Alternatives spokesman Joe Cutrofo. Announcing the next phase of Vision Zero, a program meant to reduce New York City’s pedestrian fatalities to zero, Mayor de Blasio said that 7 percent of the city’s intersections account for half of all pedestrian accidents. Focusing on these problematic areas, the city plans to retool 300 intersections and increase traffic enforcement efforts at all other dangerous intersections.