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Status Report, Vol. 37, No. 3 | March 16, 2002 Subscribe

Pedestrian deaths are on long downward trend

Motor vehicle deaths have plateaued at around 42,000 a year. In some categories, notably among motorcyclists, deaths have been going up (see Status Report special issue: motorcycle deaths, Jan. 12, 2002). Meanwhile, pedestrian deaths continue a long-term decline. Since 1975, they've gone down 51 percent. This is the largest decline in any category of motor vehicle deaths.

All age groups are affected. Among people 65 and older, pedestrian death rates have dropped about 60 percent since 1975, though the elderly still have the highest rates.

The greatest progress has been made among pedestrians age 9 and younger, whose death rates have dropped 80 percent since 1975. Children this age now have the lowest rates. "There have been some street and highway improvements, but the decline in pedestrian deaths among children most likely reflects declining exposure. Kids aren't out walking unsupervised as much as they used to. I think they're being driven more, and in many cases parents are exercising more caution over where they allow their children to go by themselves," Institute senior transportation engineer Richard Retting explains.

Pedestrian deaths still account for about 11 percent of all traffic deaths. They're frequent enough that people are starting to demand more pedestrian-friendly streets, especially in cities and suburbs where people and traffic are concentrated. About 70 percent of all pedestrian deaths occur in urban areas.

Pedestrian deaths per 100,000 people by age

Pedestrian graph image

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