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Why Do Pedestrian Deaths Keep Going Up?

Walking near traffic just keeps getting more and more dangerous. In recent years, pedestrian deaths hit an historic low and then started climbing again.

This goes against many accident trends. If you look back over the decades, fatalities tend to drop and continue dropping. When pedestrian deaths dipped under 4,000 back in 2009, people knew it was a low since the stat started getting kept, but they did not know that it was about to reverse course. It could have gotten even lower in 2010.

It did not. It swung around and started rising again. By just 2016, only a few years later, almost 6,000 pedestrians died in car accidents. That’s an increase of roughly 2,000 deaths, which make up 50 percent of that all-time low. How could things spiral out of control so quickly?


One issue researchers settled on was drinking. The statistics show that it is more likely that an intoxicated driver will get into a fatal crash than someone who is sober. Interestingly, the same is true for an intoxicated pedestrian.

This means that certain areas — that downtown bar district — show a disproportionate level of risk. When you have drunk drivers and pedestrians on the same streets, it is a recipe for disaster.

In a city like Las Vegas, with its vibrant nightlife, this is a combination seen all too often.

The recession

The economic recession in and around 2009 may also have played a role. When the economy dips and people lose their jobs, it cuts back on travel. It cuts back on leisure time. People do not drive to work or for fun as much as they used to. Even pedestrian traffic may drop as people simply stay home.

With fewer cars on the roads and fewer pedestrians in the crosswalks, perhaps the recession caused the 2009 numbers to hit an artificial low. As the economy comes back, they rise to keep up.


Researchers did warn that they needed more data, but they suspect that smartphones play a huge role. Phones make for distracted drivers and distracted pedestrians, and that distraction then leads to an increase in accidents. After all, texting and driving — or taking pictures, browsing the Internet, using a GPS, or doing anything else on a phone — takes drivers’ eyes off of the road. In some cases, pedestrians get killed.

The rise of the smartphone also fits right in with the rise in deadly accidents. In 2010, Americans only owned 78 million smartphones — it was likely an even smaller total in 2009. By 2016, they owned 262 million. The use of wireless data jumped between those years by a stunning 400 percent.

Financial compensation

If you lose a loved one or get seriously injured in a pedestrian accident, make sure you know what legal rights you have to financial compensation.