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Preliminary data shows that pedestrian deaths fell slightly in 2023, but are still higher than pre-pandemic levels

The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) released data from the first half of 2023 which shows pedestrian fatalities dropped 4% compared to the same time period in 2022. However, deaths are still far higher than every other year in the past decade.

A chart showing U.S. pedestrian fatalities from 2013-2023, January-June.

Image source: Governors Highway Safety Association.

The GHSA press release cites several factors that led to our deadly roads:

A steep drop in traffic enforcement across the country since 2020 has enabled dangerous driving behaviors – including speeding and driving impaired – to flourish. At the same time, roads are largely designed to prioritize fast-moving vehicle traffic instead of slower speeds that are safer for people walking. Many parts of the country lack infrastructure – such as sidewalks, crosswalks and lighting – that help protect people on foot. The U.S. vehicle fleet is increasingly dominated by larger, heavier vehicles that are more likely to injure or kill people walking.

While any drop in deaths is good news, we still haven’t seen those root problems addressed at a nationwide scale yet. It’s uncertain whether or not that 4% decrease is a statistical anomaly or the sign of a new trend.

2022 marked a 40-year high in pedestrian and cyclist deaths in the United States. Even with 2023’s drop (so far), we’re still seeing near-record fatalities. The deaths are worse in southern states, with 37% of all deaths taking place in California, Florida, and Texas.

GHSA cites the South’s nice weather as an explanation for their higher death rates. “These states have warmer climates, which tend to increase travel on foot, […]”

They’re also the states that saw most of their growth after highway expansion was pushed nationwide, and thus have highly car-oriented cities. Either way, if our weather is so good that more people want to get outside on foot, then that’s all the more reason why we need to seriously invest in better pedestrian safety and comfort.

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