Pedestrian deaths in 2019 rose to their highest level in 30 years, according to a new report.
“Speed, distracted driving and impaired driving continue to create perilous situations for pedestrians,” Chicago personal injury attorney Mark McNabola said. “Now that some drivers are treating emptier roads like their own personal speedways during the coronavirus pandemic, it’s more important than ever for pedestrians to be vigilant.”
An estimated 6,590 pedestrians were killed in car crashes in 2019, up 5 percent from the previous year, according to projections from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), a nonprofit that represents state highway-safety offices.
Pedestrians accounted for 17 percent of all motor-vehicle fatalities in 2019, up from 12 percent a decade earlier.
“It’s a continuation of a very bad pattern,” safety expert Sam Schwartz, who researched and wrote the report, told the Wall Street Journal. “It’s news that we don’t want to hear, but it keeps coming at us.”
So why are pedestrians dying at such high rates?
Researchers point to smartphones, speeding, alcohol and America’s growing preference for SUVs.
Pedestrians struck by SUVs are twice as likely to die as those hit by cars due to the larger vehicles’ weight and design. The rate of pedestrians killed in SUV collisions jumped a dramatic 81 percent from 2009 to 2018, according to the GHSA report. And 16 percent of drivers involved in fatal pedestrian crashes in 2018 had a BAC at or above the legal limit of 0.8.
As families across the Chicago area begin to hit the great outdoors this summer, it’s not just pedestrians who need to be cautious.
Tens of thousands of bicyclists are injured each year, and more than 850 died in U.S. traffic crashes in 2018, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
In May, McNabola Law Group filed a lawsuit against a driver who hit and seriously wounded a cyclist in a Lake County crosswalk. The 41-year-old man thankfully survived — but suffered major internal injuries and 14 broken ribs.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, police across the U.S. have reported an increase in triple-digit speeding, as well as severe and fatal crashes.
Because people are more likely to die when hit by vehicles traveling at faster speeds, some cities are taking steps to protect pedestrians and cyclists.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, for example, announced the city is converting several residential streets this summer to “shared streets” that create more open space by limiting car traffic. In Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser reduced the default speed limit on local roads from 25 mph to 20 mph.
“We’re seeing pedestrian fatality rates that haven’t existed in the U.S. since the 1980s, when vehicle safety features weren’t nearly as advanced as they are today,” McNabola said. “Creating safe spaces for pedestrians is an excellent start to reducing traffic deaths, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.”