Pedestrian fatalities have been increasing over the past decade, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association, which expresses puzzlement as to why.

In the end, their analysis seems to blame it on drivers shifting from the use of cars to SUVs and pickup trucks. Pedestrians struck by a large SUV are twice as likely to die as those struck by a car.

Another possible reason is the legalization of pot.

Based on data from the first six months of 2019, the Association projected there were 6,590 pedestrian deaths that year, which would be a 5 percent increase over the 6,227 pedestrian deaths in 2018 — the highest number of such deaths in more than 30 years, according to the association.

“In the past 10 years, the number of pedestrian fatalities on our nation’s roadways has increased by more than 50 percent,” said GHSA Executive Director Jonathan Adkins, calling the trend “alarming.”

Pedestrians are projected to account for 17 percent of all traffic deaths in 2019, compared to 12 percent in 2009.

While nationally the increase (based on 2017 data) was 35 percent over a decade, in Montana the increase in pedestrian fatalities has been 20 percent – increasing from 5 to 6 in 2018.

The report mentions that of “[t]he seven states (Alaska, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Washington) and DC that legalized recreational use of marijuana between 2012 and 2016 reported a collective 16.4 percent increase in pedestrian fatalities for the first six months of 2017 versus the first six months of 2016, whereas all other states reported a collective 5.8 percent decrease in pedestrian fatalities.”  But so far the data is inconsistent about the impact of pot legalization.

The Association’s report states, “In recent years, the number of pedestrian fatalities in the United States has grown sharply. During the 10-year period from 2008 to 2017, the number of pedestrian fatalities increased by 35 percent (from 4,414 deaths in 2008 to 5,977 deaths in 2017); meanwhile, the combined number of all other traffic deaths declined by six percent. Along with the increase in the number of pedestrian fatalities, pedestrian deaths as a percentage of total motor vehicle crash deaths increased from 12 percent in 2008 to 16 percent in 2017. . . . GHSA estimates the nationwide number of pedestrians killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2018 was 6,227, an increase of four percent from 2017.”

Unmentioned in the association’s conclusion is the fact that there has been an all-out press by the federal government trying to encourage, if not force, more people to walk and cycle rather than drive. If there are more pedestrians as a consequence, would not that increase explain the increase in the number of pedestrian / vehicle accidents?

According to the report:

—25 states (and DC) had increases in pedestrian fatalities;

—23 states had decreases; and

—Two states remained the same

— Five states (Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia and Texas) accounted for almost half — 46 percent — of all pedestrian deaths. On a per capita basis the highest is New Mexico, Arizona, Louisiana, Florida, Mississippi, South Carolina, Hawaii,

—  New Mexico had the highest rate of pedestrian deaths per resident population, while New Hampshire had the lowest.

— Increases in pedestrian fatalities are occurring largely at night.

The study suggests that pedestrian fatalities may be linked to population growth in specific cities and states.

It also states: “The increasing shift in U.S. vehicle sales away from passenger cars to light trucks (with light trucks generally causing more severe pedestrian impacts than cars) is also a factor. 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 — 50 percent – from 2013 to 2017 compared to passenger cars, which increased by 30 percent.”

An analysis of states with an increased number of fatalities compared to those with a reduced number, interestingly reveals that most of the states with increases are southern states, while those with lower rates are northern states.

One analysis of the data by ………..suggests that the reason for increased pedestrian fatalities has to do with the trend of states legalizing the use of marijuana and the fact that more pedestrians and drivers are under its influence.

Despite the state’s number of SUVs and pickups on the highways, Montana, on a per capita basis comes in just below the mid-point of a ranking of the states in terms of pedestrian fatalities.


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