While the number of traffic deaths across the country remained near the same level as 2018, pedestrian fatalities rose by an estimated 5% in 2019, making it the deadliest in 30 years.

An analysis of state and federal data by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) estimates that 6,590 pedestrians died along American roadways last year, compared to 6,227 in 2018.

Several worrisome trends develop

Pedestrian deaths have increased by more than 50% in the past decade and accounted for 17% of all traffic deaths last year based on GHSA projections. That compares to 12% in 2009. The report cites many disturbing trends, including:

  • Most pedestrian fatalities happen at night on local roads away from intersections
  • Unsafe driving behaviors, such as distracted and drowsy driving and speeding pose risks to pedestrians
  • Alcohol impairment was reported in nearly half of all crashes resulting in deaths
  • Pedestrians struck by SUVs are twice as likely to die from their injuries

Five states account for almost half of all fatalities

Iowa was one of 30 states that saw a rise in the number of pedestrian deaths. The Hawkeye State had 10 fatalities in 2019 compared to nine the year before, and five states – California, Florida, Texas, New York and Georgia – accounted for 47% of all deaths.

California recorded 519 fatalities, followed by Florida with 368 and Texas with 313. From there, a significant decrease is seen in New York at 120. New Mexico had the highest rate of pedestrian deaths per population, and Vermont had the lowest.

A coordinated response is needed to reduce deaths

The GHSA says it will take a comprehensive effort to reduce pedestrian deaths as well as the thousands of nonfatal injuries that result each year. The group says improvements in enforcement, engineering, education and emergency medical response are sorely needed. The group points to state safety efforts, such as the Iowa Department of Transportation’s Zero Fatalities program, as vital to the effort to improve safety.