The Increase of Pedestrian Deaths in 2020 Calls for Concern
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Over the course of the pandemic, the number of pedestrians killed in a crash rose dramatically even though there were fewer vehicles on the road. Some car insurance companies have raised their rates to align with the increase of accidents.
According to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), between 2009 and 2018, there was an unprecedented 55% increase in pedestrian deaths. There was a small decline in 2019 that broke the pattern, but 2020 saw another increase of pedestrian deaths. What factors may have caused this and what can we do to reduce fatal car crashes in the future?
Pedestrian deaths are on the rise
The GHSA found that in 2019, 6,412 pedestrians were stuck and killed in a motor vehicle crash. The projected number of deaths for 2020 has fluctuated as GHSA collected more data. GHSA estimates that 6,712 pedestrians were killed on U.S. roads last year. This represents a 4.8% increase of deaths between 2019 and 2020.
USA Today reported that this is an alarming milestone. The numbers of pedestrian deaths grew when they should have decreased considering that Americans were driving fewer miles because of COVID-19 restrictions. The increased rate of deaths among a decline of motor vehicle travel is a cause for concern.
Why did pedestrian deaths increase during lockdown?
In 2020, many workers were either working from home, or temporarily laid off as their workplaces were shut down. Yet, the numbers of crash-related deaths have increased.
USA Today said that one reason for this could be the increase in sales for SUVs and trucks. These vehicles are much bigger, and make turning, parking, and slowing down from high speeds much more difficult than it would be in smaller cars.
The increase of electric and hybrid vehicles, and their quiet engines can be a danger to pedestrians as well. According to a study released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), EVs are more likely to be involved in a pedestrian crash than a gas-powered vehicle. Since the electric motor is quieter, it’s harder for pedestrians to hear them as they approach.
There's more to the story than the type of vehicle involved. Several pedestrian deaths involved distracted drivers, speeding, and impaired driving. There’s been an increase of dangerous driving behavior during the pandemic.
What can you do to prevent car accidents?
We've made a lot of progress in terms of advanced safety tech on cars that are designed to make us better drivers. There are features such as lane departure warning, assistive parking, blind spot warning, drowsy driver alerts, and backup cameras. Some vehicles even come with pedestrian detection.
However, you should still be proactive and aware when you’re driving. Simple things like keeping your eyes on the road, looking both ways before turning, and not texting while driving are still important.
You shouldn’t drive impaired. GHSA found that alcohol impairment was involved in about half of all traffic crashes that resulted in pedestrian deaths in 2019. Most fatal pedestrian crashes occur at night when it’s hard to see, and you won’t be able to respond to hazards in time if you’re intoxicated.
You can call an Uber or a friend to give you a lift so you can keep yourself and others safe. You’ll be protecting your health and your finances. Your car insurance company might offer a discount for safe drivers.
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