2020 was a deadly year for pedestrians in the US, according to new data.

The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) says last year saw the largest ever annual increase in the rate at which pedestrians were killed in vehicle crashes.

The organization says dangerous driving like speeding, drunk and drugged driving, and distraction were rampant during the COVID-19 pandemic, and that these issues, combined with infrastructure issues, were to blame for the rise.

The GHSA estimates that there were 6,721 pedestrian deaths in 2020 – a 4.8 percent increase from the 6,412 fatalities reported the year before. But with a 13.2 percent decrease in vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in 2020, the pedestrian fatality rate was 2.3 per billion VMT – a 21 percent increase from 1.9 in 2019.

This projection is the largest ever annual increase in the pedestrian death rate since the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) was established in 1975.

“The increase in pedestrian fatalities, especially against the backdrop of large, pandemic-related declines in motor vehicle travel, is especially concerning,” said Richard Retting of Sam Schwartz Consulting, who conducted the data analysis.

“We cannot allow ourselves to become numb to these unacceptable numbers of pedestrian deaths.”

GHSA will bring together national and state leaders early this fall in Denver to discuss the increase in pedestrian and overall traffic deaths and strategies to mitigate these deaths in the first in-person national traffic safety conference since COVID-19 hit in March of 2020.