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Pedestrian Accident Statistics – Studies Show Pedestrian Fatality Rates are Higher in Cities and Urban Areas

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Posted on March 10, 2014

Pedestrian accident fatalities occur primarily in urban areas, according to historical data.

Vehicle factors also are important. In pedestrian accidents, the most serious physical trauma responsible for disabling injuries and death comes from pedestrians impacting vehicle bumpers, hoods, or the windshield areas of automobiles. In addition to traffic solutions innovations such as warning devices and medians, engineers are working to make vehicle exteriors safer and less lethal in an effort to decrease the dangers posed to pedestrians.

According to the most recent statistics, 73 percent of pedestrian deaths in 2012 occurred in urban areas, up from 59 percent in 1975. Fifty-eight percent of pedestrian deaths in 2012 occurred on major roads other than interstates and freeways. In the year 2012, 4,743 pedestrian fatalities were recorded by the CDC. Of that total, 3,483 (nearly 73 percent) occurred in urban areas within city limits. Each year before that, the proportions have remained generally consistent, with a notable majority of pedestrian fatalities occurring in or close to populated cities.

Experts say the higher density of automobile traffic, coupled with the feasibility of pedestrian travel within urban areas and compounded by growing distractions (smartphone use) among both pedestrians and drivers, has sustained the high proportion of deaths in urban areas.

Additional Pedestrian Accident Statistics

By comparison, the largest proportion of pedestrian fatalities in rural areas occurs on roads with a speed limit of 55mph or greater. This may be attributed to deaths occurring on interstates and state highways, areas designated for high-speed vehicle travel and roads lacking sidewalks, not intended for pedestrian travel. Many states post signs banning pedestrians and bicyclists from interstate roadways.

Throughout the past several years, Florida has ranked consistently as one of the top states in the US with the most annual pedestrian fatalities. Florida’s largest cities – Tampa, Orlando, Miami, and Jacksonville – have the highest pedestrian fatality rates in the US. Teens between the ages of 15 and 19 are the most at-risk group for pedestrian accidents. Youth living in urban areas face an elevated, relatively proportionate risk of fatal pedestrian accidents on city streets.

  • Pedestrian accidents are the second leading cause of death in the US for ages 5 to 14
  • Between 2004 and 2011, 116 pedestrians were hit by vehicles while wearing headphones or ear buds; more than a third of those injured or killed were younger than age 18
  • There were a total of 4,432 pedestrian fatalities in 2011, the 14-and-younger age group accounted for 230 (5 percent) of those fatalities
  • An average of 61 children are struck by automobiles in the US every day
  • 39 percent of child pedestrians died as a result of being hit in intersections in 2010 and 56 percent were killed in other locations on the road
  • 14-and-younger age group accounted for 16 percent of the pedestrian fatalities
  • African Americans suffer a pedestrian death rate of 2.39 per 100,000 people — more than 70 percent higher than the rate for non-Hispanic whites (1.38)
  • Hispanics ages 65 and older have a fatality rate twice that of African Americans, and 173 percent higher than for non-Hispanic whites

Solutions for Increasing Pedestrian Safety

Engineering measures that separate vehicles and pedestrians such as sidewalks, refuge islands, overpasses and underpasses, and barriers can reduce the problem. Increased illumination and improved signal timing at intersections can also be effective. Since traffic speeds affect the risk and severity of pedestrian crashes, reducing speeds can lower pedestrian deaths.

There are several types of medians, also known as center islands, refuge islands, pedestrian islands, or median slow points and if designed and applied appropriately, they have been proven to help improve pedestrian safety in the following ways:

  • In some cities, medians have reduced pedestrian accidents by 46 percent and motor vehicle crashes by up to 39 percent.
  • Medians provided pedestrians with a safe place to stop at the mid-point of the roadway to focus on one direction of traffic at a time before crossing the remaining distance.
  • Medians enhance the visibility of pedestrian crossings, particularly at areas without traffic signals or marked crosswalks.
  • They can help reduce the average speeds of vehicles approaching pedestrian crossings.
  • Medians can be used for access management for vehicles (allowing only right-in/right-out turning movements).
  • Medians provide additional space for supplemental warning signage on multi-lane roadways.

Raised medians should be considered in curbed sections of multi-lane roadways in urban and suburban areas, particularly in areas where there are mixtures of significant pedestrian and vehicle traffic (more than 12,000 Average Daily Traffic (ADT)) and intermediate or high travel speeds. Adding medians while increasing safe crossing awareness can help reverse the growing trend of pedestrian accidents and curb the issue of high pedestrian fatalities in urban areas.


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