July 2017

  1. How many pedestrians are killed and injured each year?

    In 2015, 5,376 pedestrians were killed and approximately 70,000 injured in motor vehicle crashes on public roadways in the United States. Pedestrians comprised about 15 percent of crash deaths. A study of pedestrians treated in emergency rooms for crash injuries found that 12 percent has been struck in a nonroadway location such as a parking lot and therefore wouldn't be counted in police-reported crash statistics. Stutts, J.C. and Hunter, W.W. 1999. Motor vehicle and roadway factors in pedestrian and bicyclist injures: an examination based on emergency department data. Accident Analysis and Prevention 31(5):505-14. Thus, it's likely that the true number of pedestrians injured in motor vehicles crashes in 2015 was greater than 70,000.

  2. What is the trend in pedestrian deaths?

    The annual number of pedestrian deaths in the U.S. has declined 28 percent since 1975. However, the number of pedestrian deaths has increased since reaching its lowest point of 4,109 deaths in 2009.

    Over the past 40 years, pedestrian fatalities have declined among children, teens, and older adults, but have increased among prime-age adults. From 1975-2015, fatalities fell 81 percent among pedestrians under age 20 (from 2,428 to 456) and fell 48 percent among pedestrians age 70 and older (from 1,348 to 698), but have increased 14 percent among pedestrians ages 20-69 (from 3,656 to 4,172).

    Reasons for the declines during the past 40 years are not fully known, but they probably reflect decreased walking, especially among children. Data from the census and national travel surveys show that walking trips have decreased since the 1960s, although they increased somewhat during the past decade. Pucher, J.; Buehler, R.; Merom, D.; and Bauman, A. 2011. Walking and cycling in the United States: evidence from the National Household Travel Surveys. American Journal of Public Health 101(S1):S310-17. A 2009 survey found that less than 13 percent of children in grades K-8 usually walked to school or biked; down from 48 percent in 1969. McDonald, N.C.; Brown, A.L.; Marchetti, L.M.; and Pedroso, M.S. 2011. U.S. School Travel, 2009: an assessment of trends. American Journal of Preventative Medicine, 41: 146-151. Traffic engineering improvements also may have reduced the number of pedestrian deaths.

    From 2009 to 2014, the number of pedestrian deaths increased 19 percent, while other motor vehicle crash deaths declined by 4 percent. During this time, the per capita death rate increased 15 percent. The per capita death rate increased 13 percent for ages 20-69   and 10 percent for ages 70 and older, but did not change for ages 13-19 and declined 25 percent for ages 0-12.
  3. Who is most likely to be killed or injured in a pedestrian crash?

    Based on population, children younger than 13 years have the lowest pedestrian death rate of all ages — 4 per million people. Elderly pedestrians, although struck less frequently than children, are more likely to die after being struck. Pedestrians 70 and older accounted for 13 percent of pedestrian deaths and 8 percent of pedestrians injured in 2015.

    Male pedestrians are more commonly killed in collisions than female pedestrians. This is true of all age groups. In 2015, more than twice as many male pedestrians were killed as females.

  4. To what extent does alcohol contribute to pedestrian deaths?

    Alcohol is a major factor in pedestrian deaths. In 2015, 35 percent of fatally injured pedestrians 16 and older had blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) at or above 0.08 percent. The percentage rose to 46 percent for crashes occurring between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. The percentage of fatally injured pedestrians with high BACs is largest among males and those ages 21-49. Eichelberger, A.H.; McCartt, A.T.; and Cicchino, J.B. 2017. Fatally injured pedestrians and bicyclists in the United States with high blood alcohol concentrations. Arlington, VA: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Fourteen percent of pedestrian deaths in 2015 involved drivers with BACs at or above 0.08 percent.

  5. Where are pedestrian crashes most likely to occur?

    Most pedestrian crashes occur in urban areas where pedestrian activity is concentrated. In 2015, 76 percent of pedestrian deaths occurred in urban settings, although there is a higher ratio of deaths to injuries in rural areas because of higher impact speeds on rural roads and reduced access to trauma centers. Baker, S.P.; O'Neill, B.; Ginsberg, M.J.; and Li, G. 1992. The Injury Fact Book, 2nd edition. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

    Fifty-four percent of all pedestrian deaths in 2015 occurred on major roads. Twenty-six percent of pedestrian deaths occurred at intersections. A greater percentage of older pedestrian deaths occurred at intersections when compared with deaths of pedestrians under age 70 (40 percent versus 24 percent). This is partly because older pedestrians generally cross intersections more slowly. Dommes, A.; Cavallo, V.; and Oxley, J. 2013. Functional declines as predictors of risky street-crossing decisions in older pedestrians. Accident Analysis and Prevention 59:135-43. Diminished vision, visual processing speed, and reaction time also contribute.

    Among pedestrian crashes of all severities, the most common scenario involves pedestrians crossing in front of a passenger vehicle that is traveling straight. Jermakian, J.S. and Zuby D.S. 2011. Primary pedestrian crash scenarios: Factors relevant to the design of pedestrian detection systems. Arlington, VA: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. These crashes typically occur on roads with speed limits below 40 mph, and about half occur at intersections.

  6. When are pedestrians most likely to be struck?

    Fatal pedestrian crashes occur most often between 6 p.m. and midnight. They are more likely to occur on Friday or Saturday than on other days. Pedestrian crashes of all severities occur most often during daylight, Jermakian, J.S. and Zuby D.S. 2011. Primary pedestrian crash scenarios: Factors relevant to the design of pedestrian detection systems. Arlington, VA: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. and occur on weekdays more often than on Saturday or Sunday.

  7. How can roads and intersection controls be changed to improve pedestrian safety?

    An Institute review of traffic engineering measures to reduce pedestrian crashes identified three main approaches: separating pedestrians from vehicles by time or space, making pedestrians easier to spot and reducing vehicle speeds. Retting, R.A.; Ferguson, S.A.; and McCartt, A.T. 2003. A review of evidence-based traffic engineering measures to reduce pedestrian-motor vehicle crashes. American Journal of Public Health 93(9):1456-63.

    Effective countermeasures involving separation include sidewalks, overpasses, underpasses, refuge islands in the medians of busy two-way streets and exclusive traffic signal phasing that stops all vehicle traffic for part or all of the pedestrian crossing signal duration. Retting, R.A.; Ferguson, S.A.; and McCartt, A.T. 2003. A review of evidence-based traffic engineering measures to reduce pedestrian-motor vehicle crashes. American Journal of Public Health 93(9):1456-63. Left turn phasing, where left-turning vehicles have a green arrow and crossing pedestrians have a red light, can also effectively separate pedestrians and vehicles. Chen, L; Chen, C.; Ewing, R.; McKnight, C.E.; Srinivassan, R.; and Roe, M. 2013. Safety countermeasures and crash reduction in New York City—experience and lessons learned. Accident Analysis and Prevention 50:312-22. Allowing right turns at red lights has been shown to increase pedestrian collisions at intersections, especially in urban areas, so curbing this practice in areas of high pedestrian activity should reduce pedestrian collisions. Zador, P.L. 1984. Right-turn-on-red laws and motor vehicle crashes: a review of the literature. Accident Analysis and Prevention  16(4):241-5.

    Effective measures to help drivers see pedestrians include brighter roadway lighting, diagonal parking and relocation of bus stops at traffic signals from the near to the far side of the intersection. Retting, R.A.; Ferguson, S.A.; and McCartt, A.T. 2003. A review of evidence-based traffic engineering measures to reduce pedestrian-motor vehicle crashes. American Journal of Public Health 93(9):1456-63. High-intensity activated crosswalk (HAWK) signals make pedestrians more visible to motorists by alerting drivers to stop at crosswalks across major arterials when pedestrians are present. The signals are activated by pedestrians and remain dark when there are no pedestrians. HAWK signals were associated with a 59 percent reduction in pedestrian crashes in a 2009 study. Fitzpatrick, K. and Park, E.S. 2009. Safety effectiveness of HAWK pedestrian treatment. Transportation Research Record 2140:214-23.

    HAWK signal image
    http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/research/safety/10045/

    HAWK signal in Tucson, Ariz.


    Rapid-flashing beacons, which are yellow LEDs mounted to pedestrian crossing signs that flash in an irregular pattern when pedestrians are present, also draw the attention of motorists to pedestrians and have been shown to increase the percentage of drivers that yield to pedestrians in crosswalks. Potts, I.B.; Fitzpatrick, K.; Lucas, L.M.; Bauer, K.M.; Hutton, J.M.; and Fees C.A. 2015. Effect of beacon activation and traffic volume on driver yielding behavior at rapid flashing beacons. Transportation Research Record 2492:78-83.

    Higher vehicle speeds are strongly associated with both a greater likelihood of pedestrian crashes and more serious pedestrian injuries. Tefft, B.C. 2013. Impact speed and a pedestrian's risk of severe injury. Accident Analysis and Prevention 50:871-8. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 1999. Literature review on vehicle travel speeds and pedestrian injuries. Report no. DOT HS-809-021 Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Transportation. Effective engineering measures to reduce speeds in urban areas include construction of roundabouts in place of stop signs and traffic signals, traffic calming devices such as speed humps and multiway stop signs. Retting, R.A.; Ferguson, S.A.; and McCartt, A.T. 2003. A review of evidence-based traffic engineering measures to reduce pedestrian-motor vehicle crashes. American Journal of Public Health 93(9):1456-63. Rothman, L.; Macpherson, A.; Buliung, R.; Macarthur, C.; To, T.; Larsen, K.; and Howard, A. 2015. Installation of speed humps and pedestrian-motor vehicle collisions in Toronto, Canada: a quasi-experimental study. BMC Public Health 15(1): e774.

    Extending the time available for pedestrians to cross at intersections with signals can be beneficial, especially for older pedestrians. Stollof, E.R.; McGee, H.; and Eccles, K.A. 2007. Pedestrian signal safety for older persons. Washington, DC: AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Chen, L; Chen, C.; Ewing, R.; McKnight, C.E.; Srinivassan, R.; and Roe, M. 2013. Safety countermeasures and crash reduction in New York City—experience and lessons learned. Accident Analysis and Prevention 50:312-22. Providing pedestrians a three- or four-second head start through a leading pedestrian interval (a signal that allows pedestrians to begin crossing before the release of turning vehicles) has been found to increase the percentage of left-turning vehicles that yield to pedestrians and reduce conflicts between pedestrians and turning vehicles. Van Houten, R.; Retting, R.A.; Farmer, C.M.; and Van Houten, J. 2000. Field evaluation of a leading pedestrian interval signal phase at three urban intersections. Transportation Research Record 1734:86-92. Pécheux, K.; Bauer, J.; and McLeod, P. 2009. Pedestrian safety and ITS-based countermeasures program for reducing pedestrian fatalities, injury conflicts, and other surrogate measures. Washington, DC: Federal Highway Administration. In a study conducted over a 10-year period in Detroit, pedestrian countdown signals, which show the amount of time remaining to cross the street with the green light, were associated with reductions in crashes with pedestrians. Huitema, B.E.; Van Houten, R.; and Manal, H. 2014. Time-series intervention analysis of pedestrian countdown timer effects. Accident Analysis and Prevention 72:23-31. Special warning signs and pavement markings to encourage or prompt pedestrians to look for turning vehicles as they cross the street may help at signalized intersections. A 1996 Institute study found that signs and crosswalk warnings increased the percentage of pedestrians looking for threats from turning vehicles and decreased the number of conflicts. Retting, R.A.; Van Houten, R.; Malenfant, J.E.L.; Van Houten, J.; and Farmer, C.M. 1996. Special signs and pavement markings improve pedestrian safety. ITE Journal 66(12):28-35.

  8. How do most pedestrian injuries occur?

    Most pedestrians are struck by the front of a passenger vehicle. What happens next depends on a number of factors including the speed of the vehicle and the relative heights of the pedestrian, the front end of the vehicle and the bumper. For pedestrians struck by cars, the initial contacts are with the vehicle bumper and/or the front edge of the hood. When pedestrians are struck by taller vehicles such as SUVs or pickup trucks, the impact is higher on the body. Crandall, J.R.; Bhalla, K.S.; and Madeley, N.J. 2002. Designing road vehicles for pedestrian protection. British Medical Journal 324(7346):1145-58. Typically, larger vehicles mean more serious injuries and higher risk of death. Roudsari, B.S.; Mock, C.N.; Kaufman, R.; Grossman, D.; Henary, B.Y.; and Crandall, J. 2004. Pedestrian crashes: higher injury severity and mortality rate for light truck vehicles compared with passenger vehicles. Injury Prevention 10(3):154-8.

    Generally, with a young child, a car's bumper will strike the thigh, and the front edge of the hood will strike the torso. Ashton, S.J. and Mackay, G.M. 1983. Benefits from change in vehicle exterior design: field accident and experimental work in Europe (SAE 830626). Pedestrian Safety (PT-112), 119-27. Warrendale, PA: Society of Automotive Engineers. With an adult, the bumper will strike the knee, and the front edge of the hood will strike the thigh. At low-impact speeds (e.g., below 10-12 mph), these may be the only contacts, but at higher speeds, a pedestrian usually slides over the front edge of the hood and the upper body strikes the vehicle hood or windshield. With larger vehicles, the pedestrian may instead be thrown to the ground in front of the vehicle. Crandall, J.R.; Bhalla, K.S.; and Madeley, N.J. 2002. Designing road vehicles for pedestrian protection. British Medical Journal 324(7346):1145-58. As crash speeds increase, the severity of the pedestrian's injuries is likely to increase. Tefft, B.C. 2013. Impact speed and a pedestrian's risk of severe injury. Accident Analysis and Prevention 50:871-8. Injuries to pedestrians most frequently involve their heads, legs or arms. Ivarsson, B.J.; Crandall, J.R.; and Okamoto, M. 2006. Influence of age-related stature on the frequency of body region injury and overall injury severity in child pedestrian casualties. Traffic Injury Prevention 7(3):290-8. Chidester, A.B., Isenberg, R.A. 2001. Final report – the pedestrian crash data study, proceedings of the 17th international conference on the enhanced safety of vehicles. Paper 248. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Transportation.

  9. Can vehicles be designed to minimize pedestrian injuries in a crash?

    Vehicle design can influence the type and severity of pedestrian injuries. Modifying the front structures of passenger vehicles to reduce the severity of pedestrian injuries has been the subject of research for decades. Ashton, S.J. and Mackay, G.M. 1983. Benefits from change in vehicle exterior design: field accident and experimental work in Europe (SAE 830626). Pedestrian Safety (PT-112), 119-27. Warrendale, PA: Society of Automotive Engineers. United Nations Economic Commission for Europe. 2009. Global Technical Regulation No. 9, Pedestrian safety (ECE/TRANS/180/Add.9). Geneva, Switzerland. Daniel, S., Jr. 2004. The role of the vehicle front end in pedestrian impact protection (SAE 820246). Pedestrian Safety (PT-112), 99-117. Warrendale, PA: Society of Automotive Engineers.

    As a result of this research, regulators in Europe, Japan, Korea and Australia have implemented vehicle testing programs specifically aimed at protecting pedestrians. These testing programs focus on pedestrian interaction with the hood and bumper and in some cases the hood edge and the windshield. To perform well in these tests, automakers have been putting more room between the hood and engine, designing pop-up hoods that automatically lift up a few inches upon impact, adding pedestrian hood airbags that cover the parts of the windshield and A-pillar where pedestrians frequently hit their heads, and designing bumpers with more give.

    Institute researchers conducted a series of head impact tests mimicking those used internationally with seven 2002-07 model small cars. Using data from police-reported crashes in 14 states, the researchers found that these tests were good predictors of pedestrian injury and fatality rates. Mueller, B.C.; Farmer, C.M.; Jermakian, J.S.; and Zuby, D.Z. 2013. Relationship between pedestrian headform tests and injury and fatality rates in vehicle-to-pedestrian crashes in the United States. Stapp Car Crash Journal 57:185-200. The U.S. government has proposed implementing the pedestrian protection vehicle testing program used in Europe, beginning with model year 2019. Office of the Federal Register. 2015. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration – Request for comments. Docket no. NHTSA-2015-0119; New Car Assessment Program. Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration.

    Crash avoidance technologies also may help prevent or mitigate the severity of pedestrian crashes. Front crash prevention systems continuously monitor traffic in front of vehicles and warn drivers of potential collisions. Many systems automatically apply the brakes when a crash is imminent. Most current systems are designed primarily to address front-to-rear crashes with leading vehicles. Some systems are designed to prevent or mitigate crashes with pedestrians as well.

    An Institute analysis of 2005-09 crash data estimated that such pedestrian detection systems could potentially mitigate or prevent up to 65 percent of single-vehicle crashes with pedestrians in the three most common crash configurations and 58 percent of pedestrian deaths in these crashes. Jermakian, J.S. and Zuby D.S. 2011. Primary pedestrian crash scenarios: Factors relevant to the design of pedestrian detection systems. Arlington, VA: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. However, their real-world effectiveness depends on how they function at high speeds or in low light, situations that account for the majority of pedestrian deaths.

  10. Can crash avoidance technologies prevent or mitigate the severity of pedestrian crashes?

    Yes. Front crash prevention systems continuously monitor traffic in front of vehicles and warn drivers of potential collisions. Many systems automatically apply the brakes when a crash is imminent. Most current systems are designed primarily to address front-to-rear crashes with leading vehicles. Some systems are designed to prevent or mitigate crashes with pedestrians as well.

    An Institute analysis of 2005-09 crash data estimated that such pedestrian detection systems could potentially mitigate or prevent up to 65 percent of single-vehicle crashes with pedestrians in the three most common crash configurations and 58 percent of pedestrian deaths in these crashes. Jermakian, J.S. and Zuby D.S. 2011. Primary pedestrian crash scenarios: Factors relevant to the design of pedestrian detection systems. Arlington, VA: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. However, their real-world effectiveness depends on how they function at high speeds or in low light, situations that account for the majority of pedestrian deaths.

    Rearview cameras and park assist systems can prevent backover crashes, in which drivers back into pedestrians. An Australian study compared counts of police-reported crashes for vehicles equipped with a rearview camera, rear parking sensor system, both technologies, or none of the technologies as standard equipment. The odds of a vehicle with a rearview camera being involved in a backover crash reported to the police were 41 percent less than the odds for vehicles that didn't have these technologies standard. Keall, M.D., Fildes, B., Newstead, S. (2017). Real-world evaluation of the effectiveness of reversing camera and parking sensor technologies in preventing backover pedestrian injuries. Accident Analysis and Prevention. 99:39-43. Rear parking sensors alone and when combined with rearview cameras were associated with 30-31 percent reductions in odds of a backover crash, but neither effect was statistically significant.

    See backover crashes Q&A

  11. Do education programs aimed at changing pedestrians' behavior help reduce crashes?

    Education programs generally have not been effective in reducing pedestrian crashes. Based on systematic reviews of evaluations of programs aimed at educating children about pedestrian safety, education alone has had mixed success in improving children's knowledge or road-crossing behavior. Duperrex, O.; Bunn, F.; and Roberts, I. 2002. Safety education of pedestrians for injury prevention: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. British Medical Journal 324:1129. Schwebel D.C.; Davis A.L.; and O’Neil, E.E. 2012. Child pedestrian injury: a review of behavioral risks and preventive strategies. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine 6(4):292-302. There is evidence that education programs for children can be effective when combined with traffic engineering improvements or other types of interventions. Turner, C.; McClure, R.; Nixon, J.; and Spinks, A. 2004. Community-based programmes to prevent pedestrian injuries in children 0-14 years: a systematic review. Injury Control and Safety Promotion 11(4):231-7.

  12. Does daylight saving time help reduce pedestrian crashes?

    Adding an hour of light to the afternoon increases the visibility of both vehicles and pedestrians, and Institute research has found that implementing daylight saving time year round could help prevent pedestrian deaths and injuries. Ferguson, S.A.; Preusser, D.F.; Lund, A.K.; Zador, P.L.; and Ulmer, R.G. 1995. Daylight saving time and motor vehicle crashes: the reduction in pedestrian and vehicle occupant fatalities. American Journal of Public Health 85(1):92-5. Researchers estimated that about 900 fatal crashes (727 involving pedestrians and 174 involving vehicle occupants) could have been avoided during 1987-91 if daylight saving time had been in effect throughout the year.

  13. Do electric and hybrid vehicles represent a problem for pedestrians because of their quiet motors?

    A vehicle's sound helps pedestrians, especially those who are visually impaired, detect a vehicle's presence and movements. Electric vehicles emit less sound than vehicles with combustion engines. The same is true of hybrid vehicles when powered solely by electricity. A government study examined the crashes of hybrid vehicles and similar nonhybrid vehicles and found that the likelihood of crashing with a pedestrian was 39 percent higher for hybrids than for nonhybrids in areas where speed limits were 35 mph or slower and 66 percent higher when performing certain maneuvers such as turning, stopping and backing up. Wu, J.; Austin, R; Chen, C. L.. 2011. Incidence of pedestrian and bicyclist crashes by hybrid electric passenger vehicles: an update. Report no. DOT HS-811-526. Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. These maneuvers typically occur at very low speeds when hybrids operate mostly on electric power.

    In a study of insurance claims for 2002-10 hybrid models and their conventional twins, the Highway Loss Data Institute found that hybrids were as much as 20 percent more likely to be involved in pedestrian crashes with injuries than their non-hybrid equivalents. Highway Loss Data Institute. 2011. Pedestrian-related bodily injury liability claim frequencies, hybrids versus their conventional counterparts. Highway Loss Data Institute Bulletin 28(12). Claims were assumed to stem from a pedestrian crash if they involved an injury liability claim without a claim for vehicle damage. 

    In November 2016, the Department of Transportation announced that new hybrid and electric vehicles would be required to emit a motor-like sound while moving forward or in reverse at speeds up to 19 mph by September 1, 2019.  Office of the Federal Register. 2016. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration – Final rule. Docket no. NHTSA-2016-0125; 49 CFR Part 571 and 585 Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards; Minimum Sound Requirements for Hybrid and Electric Vehicles. Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration. However, the effective date of the rule has been delayed, and some manufacturers have requested a later deadline.