BOISE – According to AAA, pedestrian fatalities in the United States skyrocketed from 4,100 in 2009 to nearly 6,300 deaths in 2018, a 53% increase in just ten years.  The disturbing trend follows 30 years of steady decreases and highlights the importance of continued vigilance by all road users.

In Idaho, pedestrian fatalities increased by 70% over the same time period, rising from 10 to 17 deaths per year.  While conditions improved slightly in 2019 (14 deaths) and 2020 (an estimated 11 deaths during the reduced traffic caused by the pandemic), AAA and its safety partners remain focused on the goal of zero deaths.

According to AAA’s review of NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System, the number of pedestrians aged 60 to 69 who were involved in a fatal crash more than doubled over the study period.  And while the number of pedestrians killed in rural crashes remained constant, the number of deaths on busy urban roads grew by 70 percent, with 68 percent of the increase on roads with speed limits of 40 mph or faster.

“With more people walking for exercise or to get to work or school during the pandemic, we all need to do our part to protect pedestrians,” says AAA Idaho public affairs director Matthew Conde.  “We’ve got to keep things moving in the right direction.”

AAA’s new research also finds that the number of pedestrians killed at non-intersection locations without crosswalks increased by 70 percent over the study period, while the number killed at intersections or marked crosswalks remained unchanged.  In other words, pedestrians were safer when they crossed the road where drivers expected them to be.

“The number of pedestrians who were fatally struck while walking along the roadway more than doubled, which dispels the notion that the only risk is to people who are crossing the street,” Conde said.  “In addition, the number of vehicles 15 years old or older that were involved in fatal pedestrian crashes nearly tripled, so that really emphasizes the importance of staying up on routine maintenance to keep safety equipment like brakes, headlights and tires in good working order.”

Safety tips for pedestrians

  • Wear bright or reflective clothing and walk facing oncoming traffic.
  • Avoid distractions. Put away your phone and stay alert.
  • Don’t wear headphones. Your ears tell you a lot about what’s happening around you.
  • Make eye contact. Don’t assume that a car will stop, even if you’re in a crosswalk.
  • Follow traffic rules. Use safety devices at controlled intersections in well-lit areas.

Safety tips for drivers

  • Stay alert. Be extra careful in poor visibility and adverse weather conditions.  Pedestrians can appear from anywhere, including while you’re backing out of a parking space or driveway.
  • Follow posted speed limits, particularly in residential areas, school zones, and other areas with heavy pedestrian traffic.
  • Ditch the distractions.
  • Don’t pass a vehicle that has stopped at a crosswalk. They have stopped to allow pedestrians to pass or to make sure the way is clear.
  • When approaching a crosswalk, reduce your speed and be prepared to stop.

“Drivers and pedestrians also need to stay sober,” Conde said.  “Impaired judgment leads to risk-taking and poor reaction time, and that’s a recipe for disaster, particularly when a motor vehicle is involved.”