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Fewer cars but more pedestrian deaths in 2020

New York and the rest of the country is beginning to reopen after people stayed at home early last year. But even though there were less vehicles on the roads, pedestrian fatalities from auto-pedestrian accidents rose by 21 percent for vehicle miles traveled from 2019 through 2020. This was the largest increase since data collection began over 40 years ago, according to the Governors Highway Safety Administration.

National problem

The data is based upon preliminary reports from all the states and Washington, DC. The projected number of pedestrian deaths rose by almost five percent from 6,412 in 2019 to 6,721 in 2020.

Causes

Driving was drastically reduced in 2020 as travel stopped and employees stopped commuting and worked from home. The odds of pedestrians being hit by a vehicle should have dropped.

But motorists drove at higher speeds on more open roads. Most of the accidents occurred involved motorists driving faster, according to a spokesperson for the American College of Emergency Physicians.

Vehicles with bigger front ends, such as sports utility vehicles, also cause more serious injuries in these accidents. The crash victim is thrown in front of the vehicle or, even more catastrophically, thrown in front of another vehicle.

Personal electronic devices are another cause. Motorists and pedestrians are looking at their devices and playing games.

Impaired driving

There was an increase in alcohol use last year. It is also anticipated that alcohol impaired driving rose slightly in 2020.

Although data on pedestrian deaths caused by impaired driving has not been released, it appears unlikely that drinking may not be a factor in this 21 percent increase. Even though people drank more, they stayed at home and did not drive to bars and restaurants.

Impaired driving has been ongoing problem, however. GHSA data from 2019 released in March indicates that a driver’s or pedestrian’s alcohol impairment played a role in almost half of all fatal pedestrian accidents that year.

Because pedestrians have virtually no protection against vehicles, their risk of serious injury or death is much greater in these crashes. An attorney can assist them or their families with seeking compensation and damages against negligent or reckless drivers.