By Matt Schmitz on March 4, 2014
Following a 15 percent spike in pedestrians killed by automobiles between 2009 and 2012, the first half of 2013 saw a nearly 9 percent decrease compared with the same period a year earlier. It was the first decline since the upward trend began four years earlier. That's according to a study by the Governors Highway Safety Association comparing fatality data from the highway offices of all 50 states and the District of Columbia from January through June in both 2012 and 2013, which logged 2,175 and 1,985 pedestrian deaths, respectively, a decrease of 190 deaths.
"The preliminary findings are good news, but it's too soon to celebrate," Kendall Poole, GHSA chairman and director of the Tennessee Office of Highway Safety, said in a statement. "With distraction an increasing issue for both pedestrians and motorists, pedestrian safety continues to be a priority in many areas of the country."
While the study found states that saw pedestrian-fatality declines only slightly outnumbered those that saw increases, the size of individual state declines was great enough to offset increases, with Florida and California seeing the biggest dips of 55 and 37 deaths, respectively. Still, such states with the nation’s largest populations and urban centers also accounted for the greatest portion of total pedestrian deaths, with Florida, California and Texas accounting for one-third in both 2012 and the first six months of 2013. The lowest percentages came from rural states like South Dakota (2 percent), North Dakota (4 percent) and Wyoming (5 percent).
Pedestrian deaths in the U.S. declined from the 7,516 in 1975 when data collection began to an all-time-low of 4,109 five years ago before increasing by an annual average of nearly 5 percent ever since. The cause of the spike is unclear, but theories range from the recent economic recession resulting in people walking to lower-cost transportation options to health and environmental concerns increasing the number of walkers. The cause of the 2013 decline is just as mysterious, though states' efforts to use a combination of engineering, public education and enforcement to combat pedestrian deaths have been cited.