Fatal pedestrian crashes on interstates and other freeways in the United States

Wang, Jin / Cicchino, Jessica B.
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
December 2019

Introduction: More than 800 pedestrians die annually in crashes on U.S. interstates and other freeways, but few studies have examined their characteristics.
Method: Data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System on pedestrians fatally injured during 2015–2017 were analyzed. Chi-square tests compared crash and personal characteristics of pedestrians killed on interstates and other freeways with those that died on other roads, and across crash types among interstate/other freeway deaths. Land use characteristics of locations where pedestrians were killed while crossing interstates or other freeways in a large state (California) were identified using Google Earth Pro.
Results: A larger proportion of pedestrians killed on interstates or other freeways died on dark and unlit roads (48% vs. 32%), were male (78% vs. 68%), or were ages 20–44 (55% vs. 32%) compared with pedestrians killed on other roads. Crossing (42%) was the most common crash type among pedestrian deaths on interstates and other freeways, followed by disabled-vehicle-related crashes (18%). Pedestrians who died while crossing more often had blood alcohol concentrations =0.08 g/dL (40%) than those in disabled-vehicle-related (22%) or other crashes (34%). Deaths in crossing crashes were more likely than other interstate/other freeway deaths to occur on urban roads (81%), at speed limits =50 mph (13%), or between 6:00 p.m. and 11:59 p.m. (49%), and 58% of crossing crashes analyzed for land use were located between residential and other (e.g., commercial, recreational) uses. Over a third (37%) of deaths in disabled-vehicle-related crashes occurred at speed limits =70 mph.
Conclusions: A surprising proportion of pedestrian deaths occur on controlled-access roads not designed for walking. Countermeasures for these crashes need to be implemented to see a meaningful reduction in pedestrian fatalities overall. Practical applications: Improving roadway and vehicle lighting, constructing pedestrian overpasses and underpasses in areas frequently crossed, and promoting alternative means of traveling between residential and commercial areas could help.