Every seven minutes, a pedestrian is injured, and one is killed every two hours. Walking in or near traffic can be dangerous, and it’s up to both pedestrians and drivers to help walkers on the road stay safe. Pedestrians are at a clear safety disadvantage, and drivers have a responsibility to practice safe driving habits and vigilance to keep walkways and roadways safe for pedestrians.
Read on, and you’ll learn about important facts and statistics on pedestrian safety. And more importantly, you’ll find useful tips for how you can share the road and save pedestrian lives by practicing awareness and following the law.
Pedestrian Danger Statistics
Everyone is a pedestrian. Walking in your neighborhood, passing through a parking lot, or walking children to school makes you a pedestrian.
- In 2018, pedestrian deaths made up 17 percent of all traffic-related fatalities (NHTSA)
- There were about 137,000 pedestrians treated in emergency rooms for non-fatal injuries from car accidents in 2017. (CDC)
- 52 percent of all back over injuries occur in parking lots. (IIHS)
- Pedestrians were one of the few groups of road users to experience an increase in United States fatalities in 2018. There were 6,283 pedestrian deaths in 2018. (NHTSA)
- A pedestrian is killed every two hours and injured every seven minutes on average. (NHTSA)
- 88 percent of pedestrian fatalities occur during clear or cloudy weather conditions, so the weather is most often not a factor in pedestrian deaths. (NHTSA)
- 74 percent of pedestrian fatalities occur in non-intersections. (NHTSA)
- 75 percent of pedestrian fatalities occur in the dark. (NHTSA)
- 50 percent of pedestrian fatalities occur between 6 p.m. and midnight. (NHTSA)
- Pedestrians ages 65 and older account for 19 percent of all pedestrian fatalities with a fatality rate of 2.29 per 100,000 people. (NHTSA)
- 19 percent of children ages 14 and younger killed in 2017 traffic crashes were pedestrians. (NHTSA)
- 70 percent of pedestrians killed are males. (NHTSA)
- Alcohol is a serious factor in fatal pedestrian crashes with 49 percent of crashes involving alcohol either for the driver or pedestrian. (NHTSA)
- Pedestrian fatalities are highest in California, Texas, and Florida. Delaware and New Mexico have the highest pedestrian fatality rate per 100,000 people. (NHTSA)
- Pedestrian groups most at risk for accidents are seniors 65 and older, children from ages fourteen and younger, and those under the influence of alcohol. (NHTSA)
Tips for Drivers Safely Sharing the Road with Pedestrians
- Have an attitude of pedestrian responsibility: Everyone is responsible for pedestrian safety, not just pedestrians themselves. As a driver, it’s your job to watch out for pedestrians and do your best to avoid accidents.
- Avoid distractions: Distracted driving kills and it’s especially dangerous for pedestrians. You’re much less likely to notice a pedestrian crossing up ahead or just around the corner if you’re using your phone, changing the radio station, or talking to someone in the back seat. Avoid engaging in distractions and wait until you’ve reached your destination or pulled over to take care of these tasks.
- Look for pedestrians: Always be on the lookout for pedestrians, especially in areas where you know they may be present, such as in urban areas and near parks or schools. Be aware that pedestrians may walk outside of crosswalks.
- Look for children: Kids don’t always follow the rules, and that includes pedestrian signs, signals, and crosswalks. They may run into the street without looking and without warning. Be especially cautious and alert for children on residential streets, near parks and playgrounds, and in school zones.
- Don’t pass stopped school buses: You should never pass a stopped school bus. While they’re letting children out, kids can run into the street, and it’s not always easy to see kids around the large bus. Don’t feel silly doing this: the law says you must, even if other drivers don’t comply.
- Look before you turn: Pedestrians aren’t just right in front of you while you’re going straight. They may be in the crosswalk as you’re turning, too. When you’re getting ready to make a turn, always look ahead to see if there’s a pedestrian crossing or preparing to cross, and be sure to make eye contact and give them the right of way.
- Follow traffic signs and signals: There are several pedestrian signs and signals drivers need to be aware of and use to yield right of way to pedestrians. Signs indicating to watch for pedestrians, to travel only in one way, stop, or yield should be observed.
- Always give pedestrians the right of way: Pedestrians don’t always follow the rules. They may walk on a Don’t Walk sign, jaywalk, dart out in traffic, or surprise you in other ways. But even when pedestrians aren’t following the rules, it’s your responsibility (and typically, the law) for you to yield right of way and let a pedestrian pass.
- Never drink and drive: Driving impaired under the influence of alcohol or drugs makes the road more dangerous for everyone, especially pedestrians. Drunk driving slows your reaction time and cognitive functions, making it difficult to appropriately notice pedestrians or stop in time to avoid a collision.
- Follow speed limits: Always follow the speed limit, especially when you’re in an area with pedestrian traffic. Take care to follow posted school zone speed limits.
- Maximize visibility: Keep your windshield clean and clear and your headlights on so you can better see pedestrians and they can better see you.
- Be prepared during tough weather: During rainy, snowy, or otherwise tough driving weather, your visibility may decrease, making it difficult to see pedestrians, much less the vehicles around you. Be sure to turn on your lights so it’s easy for pedestrians to see you and to light the way while using turn signals properly and taking extra care to watch for pedestrians rushing out of the bad weather.
- Be aware of pedestrians at night: 70 percent of pedestrian fatalities occur between 6 p.m. and 5:59 a.m., so it’s important to watch for pedestrians even after the sun goes down.
- Always look before you back up: When backing up, always be sure to check for pedestrians before you go. Check your rearview mirror as well as your side mirrors and surroundings for pedestrians, especially children who may run behind your vehicle unexpectedly. Be especially careful in driveways and parking lots.
- Follow crosswalk rules: You should always yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk, even if a crossing guard or signal is not present. Reduce your speed and be prepared to stop when approaching a crosswalk, and remember to leave enough room in the crosswalk for pedestrians to walk outside of the flow of traffic. Always stop for a crossing guard. Never attempt to go around other vehicles stopped at a crosswalk. Never block a crosswalk.
- Look before opening your door: Pedestrians may be walking in the street or close to cars on the sidewalk, so always be sure to look before you open your car door.
- Take care when passing stopped vehicles: Children may dart out from in front of stopped vehicles, or passengers may open doors without warning. Vehicles stopped inexplicably at intersections may be yielding to pedestrians, so don’t go around them unless you’re sure the intersection is clear.
- Never assume a pedestrian sees you: It’s hard to miss a moving vehicle, but you should never assume a pedestrian has noticed your car. Always make eye contact and confirm with pedestrians that they know you’re turning or giving them the right of way.
- Practice safety at school drop off: Be sure to follow all school drop off procedures carefully. Try to carpool to reduce the number of vehicles at the school. Also, take care to follow drop off etiquette: avoid double parking, as it blocks visibility, and never unload or load children across the street from the school.