The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) estimates a 10% increase in the number of persons on foot killed in traffic crashes in 2015, compared with the prior year. This annual GHSA Spotlight on Highway Safety Report provides the first look at 2015 pedestrian fatality trends, based on preliminary data reported by all 50 state highway safety agencies and the District of Columbia.

The latest report was authored by Richard Retting and Dr. Heather Rothenberg of Sam Schwartz Consulting.

“We are projecting the largest year-to-year increase in pedestrian fatalities since national records have been kept, and therefore we are quite alarmed,” said Retting.

Since the Fatality Analysis Reporting System was established in 1975, the year-to-year change in the number of pedestrian fatalities has varied from a 10.5% decrease to an 8.1% increase.

Retting said: “Pedestrian safety is clearly a growing problem across the country. It is important to understand the data underlying these crashes so states and localities can apply the right mix of engineering, education and enforcement to counteract this troubling trend.”

Comparing the number of pedestrian fatalities for the first six months of 2015 (2,368) with the same time period the previous year (2,232), and adjusting for anticipated underreporting associated with the preliminary data, the researchers anticipate the final 2015 pedestrian fatality total will be approximately 10% higher than in 2014. Along with the increase in pedestrian fatalities, pedestrians now account for a larger share − about 15% of all motor vehicle crash-related deaths − compared with 11% a decade ago.

Many factors could be contributing to this spike. An increase in motor vehicle travel, fueled in part by improved economic conditions and lower gas prices, coupled with the growing use of cell phones among walkers and drivers may be partially to blame. Additionally, vehicles are becoming more and more “crashworthy,” meaning the likelihood of drivers and passengers surviving a crash is improving all the time. By contrast, pedestrians remain just as susceptible to injuries when hit by a motor vehicle.

Largest ever increase expected in United States pedestrian deaths
Source: Fatality Analysis Reporting System

Another important factor is the increase in the number of Americans walking for health, economic or environmental reasons. This underscores the need to create safe, walkable pathways and ensure that people who drive and people who walk both understand and follow the rules of the road, so everyone arrives at their destination safely.

States reported a wide range of increases and decreases in the number of pedestrian fatalities over the first six months of 2015. Twenty-one states had decreases; 26 states and the District of Columbia reported increases; and three states had no change.

Not surprisingly, more pedestrian fatalities tend to occur in large states with large urban centers: California, Florida, Texas and New York accounted for 42 percent of all pedestrian deaths in the first six months of 2015. However, when population is taken into account, the states with the highest fatality rate per 100,000 population were all over the map. In 2014, the seven states with the highest rates were New Mexico, Florida, Delaware, Nevada, Louisiana, South Carolina and Arizona.

Access the full report at