Last year there were fewer motor vehicles on the road than usual. Working from home increased, removing the need for a daily commute, and travel for other reasons declined.
Researchers theorized that, with fewer cars on the road, the number of pedestrian deaths from accidents might decline as well. However, the most recent data collected indicates the exact opposite. As reported by NBC News, between 2019 and 2020, there was actually an increase in pedestrian deaths from motor vehicle accidents in the United States. When adjusted for the decrease in the number of cars on the road, the pedestrian death rate in 2020 jumped by 21% compared to 2019.
What is behind the increase?
Stretches of open roads may have inspired a false sense of security in drivers. They may have felt freer to engage in dangerous behaviors they may not have if the roads had been more crowded, such as distracting themselves with their phones or exceeding the speed limit. Research shows that many pedestrian accidents occurred when the vehicles were traveling at high speeds. When speed is a factor, a pedestrian fatality is more likely because the vehicle strikes with greater force.
What can pedestrians do to protect themselves?
According to the National Highway Traffic Administration, pedestrians should keep to areas designated for them, such as sidewalks and crosswalks, whenever possible. It is important that drivers see them, so they should wear bright or reflective clothing that makes them more visible, and they should make eye contact with drivers before crossing in front of them. Pedestrians should obey all applicable laws and traffic signals.
Both drivers and pedestrians should avoid substances that could impair judgments and distractions such as cell phone use while on the road.