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The number of pedestrian deaths has risen over the last decades, regardless of the drastic improvements in car safety. This was demonstrated by the rise of pedestrian deaths in the first half of 2022.

Florida had the highest number of pedestrian deaths, followed by Virginia, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Illinois. The causes of these deaths remain the same across all the states in the U.S. Here’s a detailed look at the top three factors.

1. Dangerous driving 

Pedestrians walking both ways on a crosswalk in Taipei, Taiwan
Pedestrians on a crosswalk in Taipei, Taiwan | Lam Yik Fei/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Governors Highway Safety Association estimated at least 3,343 pedestrian deaths in 2022. This report indicated that pedestrian deaths rose by 5% compared to early 2021.

One of the biggest causes of pedestrian deaths is dangerous driving. Several things define dangerous driving, including driving while intoxicated, speeding, and failure to observe traffic rules. However, speeding is the highest contributor. According to the CDC, pedestrian deaths from dangerous driving usually occur in urban areas or roadway locations away from intersections, where drivers are most likely prone to speeding. 

Besides speeding, intoxication also contributes to pedestrian deaths. An intoxicated driver cannot make the right decisions while driving. Therefore, they’ll most likely ignore traffic rules, especially in crosswalks where pedestrians have the right of way during traffic stops. An intoxicated driver may also drive up to the pavements once they lose control of their vehicles. This could result in fatal injuries or the instant death of bystanders.

Another type of dangerous driving method contributing to pedestrian deaths is texting while driving. Texting takes the driver’s attention from the road as they focus on their phone. This gives them less reaction time if a pedestrian steps into the street, leading to fatal accidents. 

2. Inadequate infrastructure 

Most U.S. states have seen population growth, whereas most of their infrastructure was auto-centric rather than pedestrian focused. With so many of these populations preferring to walk, pedestrian deaths have risen due to poor pedestrian infrastructure. Several factors are associated with poor infrastructure, including poorly designed pedestrian crossings with poor illumination, no means of speed management, wrong geometry, poor road signage, and limited sight distance. 

With this kind of poor infrastructure, there are high chances of fatal pedestrian accidents resulting from illegal crossing, stepping into the streets abruptly, and drivers’ reluctance to share the available space with pedestrians. Speeding near poorly designed pedestrian infrastructure has also contributed to pedestrian deaths.

3. Heavier and larger vehicles 

American vehicles have ballooned in size for the past three years. Consequently, taller vehicles like the GMC truck are more likely to cause pedestrian deaths in case of an accident. These large-built vehicles are designed differently than other passenger cars, as per Metzger & Kleiner Attorneys. They sit higher than passenger cars and would most likely hit a passenger in the chest or stomach areas, causing fatal injuries that may lead to death. 

Besides that, these vehicles create more force upon impact than others. With an average weight of 5,000 pounds, the force generated by these vehicles in an accident will most likely result in pedestrian deaths. This is more likely if the vehicle’s speed exceeds 40 mph. 

Another reason heavier and larger vehicles have contributed to pedestrian death is their drivers’ tendency to be more aggressive. They feel superior to others and drive aggressively. An aggressive driver will likely hit a pedestrian, resulting in fatal injuries or instant death. 

Heavier vehicles are also hard to control, which may contribute to pedestrian deaths. They require a longer stopping distance than smaller subcompact passenger cars. This makes it harder to evade situations that may result in pedestrian accidents even after seeing a pedestrian from afar, especially if the driver is speeding.

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