In 2022, the United States grappled with a deeply concerning surge in pedestrian deaths, witnessing the highest numbers since 1981. The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) disclosed startling figures, estimating that pedestrian fatalities escalated to at least 7,508 last year, a spike representing a 77% increase since 2010 and a slight uptick of 1% from 2021. The sustained rise in these fatalities, coupled with the lack of indicators suggesting a reversal in this trend, underscores a pressing national crisis.
Jonathan Adkins, GHSA’s Chief Executive Officer, expressed grave concerns over these sudden and violent deaths, emphasizing that these are preventable tragedies befalling individuals engrossed in their daily routines. The magnitude of this crisis is highlighted by the fact that, every day, approximately 20 people succumb to fatal accidents while performing everyday activities like commuting, shopping, or walking their dogs. The persistence of risky driving behaviors, inappropriate infrastructure, and high speeds are identified as significant contributors to these fatalities, demanding immediate and comprehensive interventions to fortify pedestrian safety.
Beyond pedestrian fatalities, overall traffic-related deaths continue to maintain record levels. Preliminary data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) elucidates that the first quarter of 2023 alone documented around 9,330 deaths due to vehicle and traffic accidents, marking it as the second-highest tally ever recorded for this period. While this number did witness a 3.3% decline from the previous year, Corinne Kisner, Executive Director of the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO), emphasized that complacency is not an option, with over 40,000 lives lost annually on American roads.
The comparison of America’s grim statistics to other industrialized nations further accentuates the urgency of the situation. The substantial death toll on U.S. roads starkly contrasts with the lower numbers in other developed countries, painting a picture of a nation marred by unsafe and, often, nonexistent infrastructures for non-vehicle commuters. The proliferation of larger sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and roads primarily designed to accommodate vehicular traffic amplify the risk for pedestrians, requiring radical and multifaceted solutions. Kisner underscores the importance of reforms in speed limit settings, innovative street designs, refined vehicle safety ratings, and strategic utilization of federal funding to enhance transportation infrastructure safety.
Disturbingly, the GHSA report projects that the real number of pedestrian fatalities in 2022 could be closer to 7,600, as the data from Oklahoma was unavailable due to technical issues. An in-depth analysis of the report reveals that most of these fatal encounters occur at night, constituting 77% of the total in 2021. The decade has seen an 86% increase in nighttime fatal crashes, significantly outpacing the 31% rise in daytime pedestrian deaths. A significant portion of these fatalities involved passenger cars and SUVs, the latter witnessing a 120% increase in related deaths over the last decade.
The analysis also underscores the overrepresentation of people of color in pedestrian fatalities. Between 2018 and 2020, a subtle but noticeable shift was observed, with the proportion of White and non-Hispanic fatalities decreasing and both Black and Hispanic fatalities experiencing a rise. This raises imperative questions about the intersections of race, urban design, and pedestrian safety.
Moreover, the report discerns infrastructure as a critical variable in these accidents, with 69% of the 2021 pedestrian fatalities recorded in areas lacking sidewalks. This marks a continuous increase from 59% in 2017, drawing attention to the dire need for enhanced protective measures like raised crosswalks and traffic calming to slow vehicle speeds. The presence and quality of sidewalks are crucial in shielding pedestrians from motor vehicle traffic, ultimately impacting the frequency and severity of accidents.
In essence, the 2022 surge in pedestrian fatalities necessitates an immediate recalibration of our approach to road safety. The fatalities, touching a 40-year high, mandate a collaborative and innovative effort from all government levels to curtail this harrowing trend and foster a safer, more inclusive environment for all road users. The integration of safer urban designs, enforcement of stringent driving regulations, and re-evaluation of vehicle safety norms are paramount in reversing the current trajectory and safeguarding countless lives across the nation.
If you or a loved one has fallen victim to a pedestrian accident, it’s crucial to act immediately. Reach out to Parker Waichman LLP, a leading national product injury law firm. They offer a free consultation to help you understand your rights and guide you through your legal options. Don’t let the negligence of others leave you suffering in silence; let the experienced team at Parker Waichman advocate for the justice and compensation you deserve. Call 1-800-YOUR-LAWYER (1-800-968-7529) now for your free, no-obligation consultation. Stand up for your rights and secure your future with the support of Parker Waichman LLP.
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