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GHSA report: 6,590 pedestrians killed on US roads in 2019, highest since 1988

The Governors Highway Safety Association’s (GHSA’s) report, “Pedestrian Traffic Fatalities by State: 2019 Preliminary Data,” projects that 6,590 pedestrians were killed on US roads in 2019. GHSA’s projection represents a 5% increase from 2018 in the number of pedestrian fatalities. This projection represents a continuation of an increasing trend in pedestrian deaths going back to 2009 and would be the largest annual number of pedestrian fatalities in the US since 1988.


Five states (Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia and Texas) accounted for almost half (47%) of all pedestrian deaths during the first six months of 2019. By comparison, these five states represented approximately 33% of the US population, according to the 2019 US Census. Source: GHSA

During the 10-year period from 2009 to 2018, the number of pedestrian fatalities increased by 53% (from 4,109 deaths in 2009 to 6,283 deaths in 2018); by comparison, the combined number of all other traffic deaths increased by 2%.

Along with the increase in the number of pedestrian fatalities, pedestrian deaths as a percentage of total motor vehicle crash deaths increased from 12% in 2009 to 17% in 2018. The last time pedestrians accounted for 17% of total US traffic deaths was in 1982.

The current study is based on preliminary data from all 50 states and the District of Columbia (D.C.). Among the major findings:

  • For the first six months of 2019, GHSA found a 3% increase in the reported number of pedestrian fatalities compared with the first six months of 2018.

  • After adjusting for anticipated underreporting in the preliminary state data and considering the historic trends in pedestrian fatalities during the first and second halves of the year, GHSA estimates the nationwide number of pedestrians killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2019 was 6,590, an increase of approximately 300 deaths, or 5%, from 2018.

  • GHSA projects a pedestrian fatality rate per 100,000 population of 2.0, which would be the largest pedestrian fatality rate in the US since 1997.

  • Although passenger cars are the largest category of vehicles involved in fatal pedestrian crashes, the number of pedestrian fatalities involving SUVs increased at a faster rate—81%—from 2009 to 2018 compared to passenger cars, which increased by 53%.

  • Increases in pedestrian fatalities are occurring largely at night. From 2009 to 2018, the number of nighttime pedestrian fatalities increased by 67%, compared to a 16% increase in daytime pedestrian fatalities.

The current report examines a number of factors that may be influencing the rise in pedestrian deaths, including the need for safer road crossings; unsafe driving behaviors; the increased presence of sport utility vehicles (SUVs); and the tremendous growth of smartphone use, which is a significant source of distracted driving.

The report additionally discusses comprehensive infrastructural, educational and enforcement approaches to reducing pedestrian and motor vehicle crashes.

The report was researched and authored by Richard Retting of Sam Schwartz Consulting.


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