The Background section
provides an overview of the need to provide a more
pedestrian-friendly environment along and near streets
and highways. This section provides an overview
of the pedestrian safety problem and related factors
that must be understood to select appropriate facilities
and programs to improve pedestrian safety and mobility.
A brief description of the pedestrian crash problem
in the United States is discussed in the following
sections and is also reported by Zegeer and Seiderman
in the ITE Traffic Safety Toolbox.1
Similar statistics should be produced for states
and municipalities to better understand the specific
problems at the community level and thus select
Pedestrian/motor vehicle crashes are a serious problem throughout the world and the United States has a particular problem with pedestrian deaths and injuries.
Older pedestrians are more likely to be injured or killed when struck
by a motor vehicle than younger pedestrians.
Specifically, 4,749 pedestrians were reported to have
been killed in motor vehicle crashes in the United
States in 2003.2
These deaths accounted for 11 percent of the 42,643
motor vehicle deaths nationwide that year. An estimated
70,000 pedestrians were injured or killed in motor
vehicle collisions, which represents 2 percent
of the 2.9 million total persons injured in traffic
A drop in pedestrian fatalities in recent years may
reflect the fact that people are walking less, as
evidenced by the U.S. Census and the Nationwide
Personal Transportation Survey (NPTS). The need to
reduce pedestrian deaths and injuries while promoting
increased walking continues to be an important goal
for the engineering profession.
Crash involvement rates per 100,000 people are highest for young males.
Crash involvement rates (crashes per 100,000 people) are the highest for 5- to 9-year-old males, who tend to dart out into the street. This problem may be compounded by the fact that speeds are frequently a problem in areas where children are walking and playing.
In general, males are more likely to be involved in a crash than females;
in 2003, 69 percent of pedestrian fatalities were
male, and the male pedestrian injury rate was 58
percent higher than for females.2
Rates for older persons (age 65 and over) are lower
than for most age groups, which may reflect greater
caution by older pedestrians (e.g., less walking at
night, fewer dart-outs) and a reduced amount of walking
near traffic. However, older adult pedestrians are
much more vulnerable to serious injury or death when
struck by a motor vehicle than younger pedestrians.
For example, the percentage of pedestrian crashes
resulting in death exceeds 20 percent for pedestrians
over age 75, compared to less than 8 percent for pedestrians
under age 14.3,4
The majority of all pedestrian crashes occur in urban areas where pedestrian activity and traffic volumes are greatest.
Pedestrian crashes occur most frequently in urban areas
where pedestrian activity and traffic volumes are
greater compared to rural areas. The National Safety
Council estimates that 85.7 percent of all non-fatal
pedestrian crashes in the United States occur in
urban areas and 14.3 percent occur in rural areas.
Seventy-two percent of all pedestrian fatalities
in 2003 occurred in urban areas.2
The percentage of rural fatalities relative to the
total number of rural pedestrian crashes is more
than doubled. In many cases, this is due to increased
vehicle speeds found on rural roads. In addition,
many rural areas have no sidewalks, paths, or shoulders
to serve as separated pedestrian facilities.
Wide multilane roadways without adequate crossing islands create an unsafe environment for many pedestrians.
Pedestrians sometimes choose the most direct path, which often places them at greater risk.
In terms of crash location, 65 percent of crashes involving
pedestrians occur at non-intersections. This is particularly
true for pedestrians under age 9, primarily because
of dart-outs into the street. For ages 45 to 65,
pedestrian crashes are approximately equal for intersections
and non-intersections. Pedestrians age 65 and older
are more likely to be injured or killed at intersections
(59 percent) compared to non-intersections (41 percent),
since older pedestrians tend to cross at intersections
more often than younger ones.5
Moreover, some older pedestrians have diminished
physical and visual abilities that make street crossings
more challenging. In recent years, an emphasis has been placed on improving
the design criteria used by engineers to ensure that the needs of all
users are being met; the Highway Design Handbook for Older Drivers and
Pedestrians is one resource.6
Fatal pedestrian collisions occur more often during periods of darkness.
Pedestrian crashes are most prevalent during morning
and afternoon peak periods, when the traffic levels
are highest. Fatal pedestrian crashes typically
peak later in the day, between 5 and 11 p.m., where
darkness and alcohol use are factors.7
In 2003, 54 percent of the pedestrian fatalities
occurred between 4 p.m. and midnight. Nearly one-half
of all pedestrian fatalities occurred on Friday,
Saturday, or Sunday (16 percent, 18 percent, and
13 percent, respectively).2,8
Crashes where older pedestrians are hit are more
evenly distributed throughout the days of the week
than those for younger pedestrians. Older pedestrians
are more likely to be struck during daylight hours,
when they are most likely to be exposed to traffic.3
September through January have the highest number
of nationwide pedestrian fatalities, with typically
fewer daylight hours and more inclement weather.4,9
Child pedestrian fatalities are greatest in May,
June, and July, perhaps due to an increase in outside
Source: U.K. Department of Transportation, Killing Speed and Saving Lives
, London, 1987.
Speeding is a major contributing factor in crashes
of all types. In 2003, speeding was a contributing
factor in 31 percent of all fatal crashes.2
Speeding has serious consequences when a pedestrian
is involved. A pedestrian hit at 64.4 km/h (40 mi/h)
has an 85 percent chance of being killed; at 48.3
km/h (30 mi/h), the likelihood goes down to 45 percent,
while at 32.2 km/h (20 mi/h), the fatality rate
is only 5 percent.10
Faster speeds increase the likelihood of a pedestrian
being hit. At higher speeds, motorists are less
likely to see a pedestrian, and are even less likely
to be able to stop in time to avoid hitting one.
Alcohol impairment continues to be a serious problem
for pedestrians involved in motor vehicle collisions.
Driving under the influence of alcohol is a well-publicized issue as
related to motorists in this country. In 2003, alcohol
was involved in 40 percent of the fatal crashes in
the U.S. However, alcohol is also a contributing
factor in pedestrian crashes. Of the 4,622 traffic
crashes that resulted in a pedestrian fatality in
2003, 34 percent involved pedestrians with a blood-alcohol
concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or greater. More than
half of the pedestrian fatalities in the age groups
of 21-24, 25-34, and 35 to 44 involved intoxicated
pedestrians (55 percent, 57 percent, and 55 percent,