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Study: Pedestrians on endangered species list in U.S. with increased fatality rate

Rebecca Barnabi
(© Zoran Zeremski – stock.adobe.com)

Pedestrian fatalities in the United States have increased in the last few years, with October, November and December 2023 seeing the highest numbers.

The three months alone saw 31 percent of pedestrian fatalities.

According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data and a study by pre-settlement legal funding company High Rise Legal Funding, New Jersey has the highest pedestrian fatality with 30.3 percent.

Hawaii follows with 26.6 percent, California with 25.9 percent, New York with 25.3 percent and Alaska with 23.9 percent. At No. 6 is Maryland with 23 percent.

More than 50 percent of fatal accidents happen between 6 p.m. and midnight. The holidays are particularly dangerous for pedestrians with more than 2,000 fatal accidents in December from 2018 to 2021.

“The study shows us that pedestrians are most at risk during the nighttime hours,” a High Rise Legal Funding spokesperson said of the study.

Most pedestrian fatalities also happen on weekdays during the workday, with 57 percent of fatalities happening between 6 a.m. Monday to 6 p.m. Friday. Forty-three percent of fatalities are on the weekend, categorized by the NHTSA as 6 p.m. Friday to 6 a.m. Monday.

“Alcohol consumption is one of the largest risk factors for pedestrians, not only from drivers but also from themselves, as alcohol can impair decisions. The holiday period covering Thanksgiving and Christmas is one of the most dangerous times of year for pedestrians. This is due to more people traveling to visit family and friends or going out to celebrate,” the spokesperson said.

In 2021, pedestrians ages 55 to 69 years old made up 1,872 of the 7,388 total fatalities, with 10 percent during November. Older pedestrians are more likely to die from injuries than younger pedestrians because of the aging process making bones and skin more fragile.

The data also shows that only 16 percent of fatalities happened at an intersection, with 75 percent happening elsewhere. The remaining 9 percent of fatalities are categorized as occurring on ‘other’ roads. A report by NHTSA stated that the fatalities were caused by pedestrians dashing out into the road, giving drivers less time to react.

The number of pedestrian fatalities has increased by 53.34 percent since 2012, and several theories exist to explain the increase.

The NHTSA mentioned that more individuals take walking journeys instead of driving cars, which creates more pedestrians and a higher risk of accident. Distractions such as cell phones and other devices are also linked to pedestrian accidents, which is more common among younger pedestrians.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.