Number of pedestrians killed in crashes increased in 2020

The Governor's Highway Safety Association estimates there were 6,721 pedestrian deaths in 2020

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN)- Despite the pandemic causing fewer cars to be on the road in 2020, the number of pedestrians killed in car crashes rose this last year.

An organization that represents highway safety agencies, the Governor’s Highway Safety Association (GHSA), estimates there were 6,721 pedestrian deaths in 2020. GHSA says that the pedestrian fatality rate rose by 21% in 2020 from 2019–making this the largest annual increase ever.

“Reckless driving was really impacting pedestrian safety during the pandemic and that is mind-boggling to us because we know that vehicle miles traveled dropped,” Pam Shadel Fischer, GHSA’s senior director of external engagement, told ABC News.

Nationwide, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Kansas saw the highest percentage increases in pedestrian fatalities. Fischer says the likely culprits were dangerous and distracted driving.

“Speeding is a huge factor in pedestrian serious injuries and fatalities,” Shadel Fischer said. “We’ve got to get motorists to slow down.”

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According to Fischer, the deaths were more likely to happen in urban areas, primarily affecting people of color.

“We’re more likely to see pedestrian fatalities happen in urban areas where you’re going to have that more dense mix of motor vehicles and people on foot,” Shadel Fischer said. “Oftentimes there are issues related to socioeconomics, access to transportation.”

The National Safety Council (NSC), a nonprofit that promotes safety in the U.S., said that despite a 13% drop in miles driven in 2020, the estimated rate of death of the roads spiked by 24% over the last year.

“We believe that the open roads really gave drivers an open invitation marked open season on reckless driving,” Maureen Vogel, director of communications at NSC, said in an interview with ABC News at the time.

However, despite an overall increase in pedestrian deaths, GHSA reported that 19 states actually saw decreases in the number of pedestrians killed in 2020, with 11 states reporting double-digit declines.

Fischer said educating motorists and pedestrians to share the road can help keep numbers down.

“It takes everybody working together. The onus shouldn’t just be on the pedestrian, the onus shouldn’t just be on the car driver, we have to work together,” Shadel Fischer said.

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