The number of fatalities related to motor vehicle accidents has remained relatively steady in recent years. The same cannot be said for the numbers of pedestrians killed in crashes, however. According to a recent study by the Governor’s Highway Safety Association, there were 6,590 pedestrian deaths in 2019. This is a 5% increase over the 2018 number and reflects a 50% increase since 2009.

The study says this disturbing change reflects a reversal after a downward trend, whereby numbers decreased until a record low in 2009 before rebounding. The 2019 total nearly matches a previous high of pedestrian deaths in 1989. Moreover, pedestrian deaths were 17% of all road fatalities of 36,560 in 2019.

Here in New Mexico, there was a 9% increase due to 47 deaths in the first half of 2019 (the most segment of recent complete data), compared to 43 deaths in the first half of 2018.

Why is this happening?

The authors of the study cited several reasons. These include:

  • Distracted drivers: Driver’s use of cellphones while behind the wheel has reached epidemic proportions here in the U.S. and is a significant cause of injuries and deaths.
  • SUVs: These vehicles are more lethal because they are harder to maneuver, larger and sit higher up (impacting the body instead of legs). Sales of these models have increased in the last decade by more than 80%.
  • Intoxication: Drinking and driving remains a stubborn problem, and 16% of all fatalities were caused by a driver over the legal limit.
  • Road design: This is changing, but trends in road designs in recent decades favors traffic flow over pedestrian safety. The number of fatalities increased by 67% at night, which also indicates a lack of adequate lighting.

Families can take action

The shelter-in-place orders increased the number of pedestrians out walking for exercise and relaxation. Unfortunately, this activity can turn into a deadly tragedy that takes a parent or child’s lives. Families of loved ones killed in a pedestrian accident may wish to hold negligent drivers accountable by filing a wrongful death lawsuit. They may also want to name municipalities if road design did not provide adequate light or protection to those walking alongside the road. A personal injury attorney can work with the family to determine the best course of action in their case.