An estimated 6,721 pedestrians were killed on U.S. roads in 2020 — a 4.8% increase from 2019 despite a drastic drop in miles driven, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA). To better protect people on foot, the GHSA and its State Highway Safety Office members have or are currently putting a number of safety initiatives into effect.
The plans come at an appropriate time as October marks the second annual National Pedestrian Safety Month. Following are some of the steps states are taking to address the behavioral safety issues that put people on foot at increased risk of injury and death.
California: The California Office of Traffic Safety sponsored a “traffic safety superheroes” event, where children dressed up as their favorite superhero and participated in pedestrian and bicyclist safety activities, including learning about signs and signals while biking and walking. In addition, the Go Human Bicycle/Pedestrian Safety Program is working to reduce collisions involving people walking and biking in Southern California through public outreach, community engagement, and safety infrastructure demonstration projects.
Connecticut: Funded by that state’s Highway Safety Office, the Watch for Me program is an educational initiative highlighting pedestrian safety facts and tips through out the month, including during Halloween, an especially dangerous time for children. This program offers a new campaign called “Pedestrian Rules” to increase driver awareness of new state pedestrian safety laws that will take effect Oct. 1.
New Jersey: Street Smart NJ, a collaborative program that is supported by the New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety, educates drivers about safely sharing the road through equitable enforcement of the state’s stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk law, grassroots public education and outreach, and pop-up and low-cost infrastructure improvements.
New Mexico: The New Mexico Department of Transportation is supporting Safe Routes to School programs that encourage more students to walk and bike to school. To ensure their journey is safe, NM DOT recently adopted its first Pedestrian Safety Action Plan, which details what the department and its partners will do over the next five years to reduce the number of pedestrian-involved serious injuries and fatalities.
North Carolina: Watch for Me NC, funded by a grant from the North Carolina Governor’s Highway Safety Program, is a comprehensive program that uses public education, community engagement, and high visibility enforcement to reduce pedestrian and bicyclist injuries and deaths. A 2020 survey of state residents found the program resulted in increased awareness of the state law requiring drivers to stop for a pedestrian in a crosswalk, which is helping to protect people on foot.
Pedestrian fatalities continue to be a major roadway problem. The GHSA report projects the U.S. pedestrian fatality rate per billion vehicle miles traveled (VMT) jumped to 2.3 deaths in 2020 — an unprecedented 21% increase from 1.9 in 2019. Moreover, in 2019, three out of four pedestrian fatalities occurred after dark.