2022 SafeTREC Traffic Safety Fact Sheet: Pedestrian Safety

Everyone is a pedestrian, whether or not walking is one’s primary mode of travel. As a commute mode, walking is gaining in numbers. In 2020, pedestrian deaths accounted for 16.8 percent of all crash fatalities and nearly one-quarter (24.3 percent) of pedestrian fatalities involved a hit-and-run crash. From 2011 to 2020, pedestrian fatalities increased 46.2 percent while other traffic deaths only increased by 14.4 percent. From 2019 to 2020, pedestrian fatalities increased 3.9 percent, despite a 13.2 percent reduction in driving. Compared with all other racial categories, American Indian/Alaska Native persons had a substantially higher per-capita rate of fatalities among pedestrians. Black persons had the second highest rate of pedestrian traffic deaths. Preliminary 2021 data suggest that this trend will continue in the near future, reporting that 8,730 people died in roadway fatalities in the first quarter, a 10.5 percent increase from the same period in 2020. 

These increases are a continuation of a longer trend of increasing pedestrian fatalities, especially at night. From 2010 to 2019, the number of pedestrian fatalities that occurred in the dark increased 53.8 percent compared to a 16.2 percent increase in daytime pedestrian fatalities. 

Larger vehicles cause more severe injuries when they strike pedestrians; new research from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety shows that turning crashes are more likely with larger vehicles. When compared with passenger cars, pickups had the greatest increase, 269.6 percent, in the odds of being involved in a crash that killed a pedestrian while turning left. Minivans and large vans had the next largest odds increase, 172.0 percent, while pickups and SUVs were associated with a 93.6 percent increase. Pickups and SUVs were also associated with significantly increased odds of killing a pedestrian in a right turn crash compared to a car at 88.6 percent and 63.4 percent, respectively. 

The United States Department of Transportation uses the Safe System Approach to work towards zero roadway fatalities and serious injuries. The Safe System Approach recognizes that people may make unsafe decisions and designs a system with many redundancies in place to protect everyone, especially the most vulnerable road users. The Federal Highway Administration names safe road users, safe vehicles, safe speeds, safe roads, and post-crash care as key elements of a Safe System. These elements together create multiple layers of protection to improve safety. 

Analyses presented in the pedestrian program area include fatal and serious injuries to pedestrians. FARS only includes pedestrians on foot, whereas SWITRS fatal and serious injury analysis includes both pedestrians and persons on personal conveyances, e.g., skateboards, wheelchairs, etc. Pedestrian crashes are defined as crashes where one or more victims is a pedestrian.

Garrett Fortin
Jill F. Cooper
Publication date: 
September 12, 2022
Publication type: 
Fact Sheet