The Governors’ Highway Safety Association (GHSA) has some troubling news regarding pedestrian safety.  In 2015, pedestrian deaths are expected to rise significantly compared with the prior year. This is a problem nationwide, but is an especially big concern in Arizona because the state already has a very high pedestrian death rate. In 2014, Arizona was one of seven states in the U.S. with the highest rate of pedestrian fatalities, along with New Mexico, Florida, Delaware, Louisiana, South Carolina, and Nevada.

Drivers and pedestrians need to be aware of the risk of pedestrians dying in car accidents and should try to take steps to make sure 2016 is a safer year than 2015 was for people who decide to walk.

Pedestrian Death Rates Rise in 2015

GHSA reported there was a 10 percent rise in the number of walkers killed in car accidents over the course of 2015 compared with in 2014. This increase was the single largest year-to-year rise in pedestrian deaths since the time when records started being kept in 1975.

Based on this preliminary data for the first half of the year, experts can anticipate the final total will be higher.  The data also shows pedestrian deaths now account for a higher percentage of total motor vehicle deaths.

There are lots of possible explanations for why pedestrian death rates are rising and for why pedestrians make up a higher percentage of people killed in car accidents than in the past. One big issue in 2015 was there were many more people on the roads driving their cars than there had been in recent years. Due to the 2008 market collapse and subsequent recession, people were out-of-work and had limited money for gas. More people now have jobs, gas prices have fallen, and there are more people driving. This means a greater chance of pedestrians dying.

There are also more people walking than in the past, either for exercise or as a method of commuting. Many of these walkers – and many of the drivers -now have cell phones as well, which has led to an increase in distracted walking and distracted driving accidents.

Finally, another significant reason why walkers are accounting for an ever-greater number of fatalities is that cars have gotten safe. Improvements in crash prevention technology and in-vehicle safety equipment mean fewer people die in collisions while occupants of a vehicle. This helps to explain why pedestrians account for a higher percentage of people killed than in the past.

While all of these explanations make sense, there are still steps drivers and pedestrians can take to reduce the chance of a crash. If both walkers and drivers are more careful on the roads, hopefully the death rate will not continue to rise.