Pedestrian Deaths Dropped In 2013: What Changed?

March 6, 2014

Automotive fatalities have been on the decline in recent years, hovering near historic lows. However, some types of fatalities, like those of motorcyclists or those due to distracted driving have actually been on the rise.

Thankfully, one of those types has begun to drop again. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, the number of pedestrian deaths fell in 2013, reversing three years of increases.

The GHSA has only looked at stats from the first six months of 2013, but that data reveals a very impressive 8.7 percent decline in pedestrian fatalities compared to 2012. In raw numbers, the period of January 1 - June 30, 2013 saw 1,895 pedestrian deaths, compared to 2,175 recorded during the same period of 2012.

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If the second half of 2013 yields similar statistics, it could put us on track to beat 2009's impressively low figures, when the U.S. saw 4,109 pedestrian deaths over the entire year. On the whole, 25 states had fewer pedestrian fatalities in the first six months of 2013 than in 2012, while five remained unchained, and 20 (plus the District of Columbia) saw stats worsen.

California, Florida, and Texas remain the three worst states for pedestrian deaths. However, two of those states improved in 2013: California saw 37 fewer fatalities during the first six months of 2013 than in 2013, while Florida dipped by 55. Texas, unfortunately, saw the biggest increase in the country, with 22 more pedestrian deaths in 2013 than in 2012.

The GHSA isn't entirely sure why the numbers improved in 2013. The general line of thinking, though, is that it's not that 2013 was better for pedestrians as that 2010, 2011, and 2012 were unusually bad for them. Why were those three years so rough? According to the report:

"Possibilities include more people walking in the aftermath of  the economic recession of 2008 through 2009 because of motor vehicle operating costs, and the encouragement of walking for health and environmental benefits. Other possible explanations include the growth in vulnerable populations (e.g., immigrants, seniors), milder weather patterns, and an increase in distracted driving and walking."

But as reasonable as that sounds, it doesn't fully explain the improvement in 2013, because "several of the reasons suggested for the increase in 2010 through 2012 still apply." All we know is that preliminary data seems to show a dip in pedestrian deaths in 2013, which is in keeping with other estimates for roadway fatalities that year. 

If you have time this Thursday and would like to read the full GHSA report, you can download a PDF here.


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