Despite large reductions in motor vehicle traffic associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, pedestrian traffic deaths are on pace with the high levels of 2019.  - Infographic courtesy of GHSA.

Despite large reductions in motor vehicle traffic associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, pedestrian traffic deaths are on pace with the high levels of 2019. 

Infographic courtesy of GHSA.

A new report projects the U.S. pedestrian fatality rate per billion vehicle miles traveled (VMT) rose to 2.2 deaths for the first six months of 2020 compared to 1.8 during the same period in 2019 — a staggering 20% increase.

Specifically, the report from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) found that 2,957 pedestrians lost their lives in motor vehicle crashes from January through June 2020. That’s six more fatalities than the 2,951 in the same period in 2019, but the analysis also factors in a significant 16.5% reduction in VMT nationwide in 2020. 

The upshot: Despite large reductions in motor vehicle traffic associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, pedestrian traffic deaths are on pace with the high levels of 2019. 

The report also evaluates data at the state level. While 27 states experienced increases in pedestrian fatalities in 2020, 20 states and D.C. saw decreases, and 3 had no change in fatalities from 2019. Noteworthy, seven states — Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, New York, North Carolina and Texas — accounted for over half (54%) of all pedestrian deaths.

New Mexico had the highest rate of pedestrian deaths per resident population, while Vermont had the lowest. 

The report notes that the national footprint of pedestrian safety is not uniform, and there are many reasons for differing pedestrian fatality rates among states. These include land use patterns, roadway designs, vehicle speeds, population density and demographics, and differing levels of investment in highway safety. 

However, safety experts say if the nationwide trend continues for the second half of the year, 2020 is projected to have the largest ever annual increase in the U.S. pedestrian fatality rate per mile driven.

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