Pedestrian Crash Facts

The loss of 4,280 lives in pedestrian/motor vehicle crashes in 2010, nearly twelve people every day of the year, is an awful toll (NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts). Though the number of pedestrian fatalities fell from 5,585 in 1995 to 4,280 in 2010, there were an estimated 70,000 reported pedestrian injuries in 2010. Pedestrian injuries have been on a downward trend, with 70,000 reported injuries in 2009 representing a decrease of 14,000 reported injuries since 1995. However, we know from research into hospital records that only a fraction of pedestrian crashes that cause injury are ever recorded by the police.

Quick facts

  • Pedestrian Deaths in 1995: 5,585
  • Pedestrian Deaths in 2010: 4,280 (NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts)
  • Reduction in pedestrian deaths between 1995 and 2010: 23 percent
  • Pedestrian Injuries in 1995: 84,000
  • Pedestrian Injuries in 2010: 70,000 (NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts)
  • Reduction in pedestrian injuries between 1998 and 2009: 17 percent
  • The total cost of pedestrian death and injury among children ages 14 and younger is $5.2 billion per year (Safe Kids Worldwide).
Graph showing Pedestrian Fatalities by Year

Graph showing Pedestrian Injuries by Year

The raw numbers hide many trends, truths, and lessons, and they beg a wide range of questions. Is walking more dangerous than other modes of travel? Is walking getting safer? Who is getting killed in pedestrian crashes, where, when, and why? The following section seeks to answer some of these questions and provide a better perspective and context for the facts.

Is walking more dangerous than other modes of travel?

Pedestrians are over-represented in the crash data, accounting for more than 13 percent of fatalities but only 10.9 percent of trips. However, there is no reliable source of exposure data to really answer this question—transportation professionals don't have an accurate sense of how many miles people walk each year, or how many minutes or hours people spend walking or crossing the street (and thus how long they are exposed to motor vehicle traffic, for example).

As with every mode of travel, there is clearly some risk associated with walking. However, walking remains a healthful, inherently safe activity for tens of millions of people every year. The public health community is now recognizing that lack of physical activity, and a decline in bicycling and walking in particular, is a major contributor to the hundreds of thousands of deaths caused by heart attacks and strokes—this number dwarfs the 32,885 total deaths due to motor vehicle crashes and the relatively small 4,280 pedestrian deaths in 2010. In fact, the number of deaths in 2000 caused by poor diet and physical inactivity increased by approximately 65,000, accounting for about 15.2 percent of the total number of deaths.1

1 , Allison, David B., Kevin R. Fontaine, JoAnn E. Manson, June Stevens, Theodore B. VanItallie, and Ali H. Mokdad. Annual Deaths Attributable to Obesity in the United States, JAMA. 1999; 282:1530-1538. Vol. 293 No. 3, January 19, 2005.

Is walking getting safer?

A drop of 23 percent in fatalities since 1995 certainly looks good, but without a better understanding of how many people are walking, where they are walking, and how far/often they are walking, it is difficult to determine if safety improvements are truly being made. A reduction in pedestrian crashes could be attributed to fewer people walking in general, or to improvements in facilities, law enforcement, education, and behavior that are really leading to more people walking and to fewer pedestrian fatalities.

Who is getting killed in pedestrian crashes?

A detailed breakdown of the age, gender, and location of pedestrian crash victims is available from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) fact sheets. Some of the more noteworthy trends or numbers are:

  • 69 percent of pedestrian killed in 2009 were males.
  • Almost three out of every four pedestrian fatalities occur in urban areas (72 percent).
  • The top four states for pedestrian fatalities are California, Florida, Texas, and New York. These four states make up 41 percent of pedestrian fatalities nationwide while only accounting for 5 percent of the total traffic fatalities across the country.
  • Nearly one-half (48 percent) of all pedestrian fatalities occurred on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (16%, 17%, and 15% respectively), and 70 percent at night (4 p.m. - 4 a.m.).
  • 36 percent of the 354 young (under age 16) pedestrian fatalities occurred in crashes between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.

For more pedestrian crash facts, link to the organizations and fact sheets listed below: