Pedestrian deaths drop 10%, but still above pre-pandemic level


(The Center Square) — Early data is showing that America’s streets are getting safer for pedestrians, though deaths are still higher than pre-pandemic.

Pennsylvania is doing better than most states, but hasn’t bucked the general trend.

The Governors Highway Safety Association projects that 76 Pennsylvanians died walking from January-June 2023, 9 fewer compared to 2022.

Nationally, GHSA projected 3,373 pedestrian deaths, a 4% drop from 2022. But fatalities have seen an outsized growth in recent years. Since 2019, the population has only grown by 2%, but pedestrian deaths went up 14%.

From 2013-2022, pedestrian deaths climbed nationally, plateauing from 2018-2020 until a pandemic-era increase.

Though the commonwealth was above-average, it wasn’t a standout. California had the biggest yearly drop (66 fewer deaths), followed by Arizona (29) and Georgia (20). The worst-performing states were Colorado (19 more deaths), Alabama (15), and South Carolina (14).

All of Pennsylvania’s border states, except Maryland, saw a decrease in deaths. New York had the biggest decline, 12 fewer deaths.

“Three systemic changes that can improve pedestrian safety: safer crossings, appropriate driving speeds and improved visibility,” the GHSA report noted. “Unsafe crossings, high vehicle speeds and low visibility are contributing factors in many pedestrian fatalities, so it only makes sense that improving these conditions will result in fewer crashes, injuries and fatalities for people on foot.”

Intersections only account for roughly 1 in 5 pedestrian fatalities. Instead, GHSA focused on improvements elsewhere.

“A disproportionate number of pedestrian fatalities take place between sunset and sunrise. Simple lighting improvements can help,” the report noted. “Some vehicles have blind spots which make it difficult to see pedestrians crossing the street, so more automakers are building blind spot detection into their vehicles. Continued vigilance to make sure pedestrians are seen by drivers is critical to further reduce pedestrian deaths.”

Lowering speed limits won’t have much of an impact, however. State officials have noted that road design matters more than posted speeds, and Pennsylvania has lagged behind other states in improving road safety.

Allentown recorded its first pedestrian deaths of 2024 in May when a driver struck an elderly couple as they took an evening walk. Last year, the city recorded five pedestrian deaths and a dozen serious injuries from drivers.