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Pedestrian deaths have fallen for the first time since the pandemic

It's becoming safer to cross the street. Pedestrian deaths fell by 5.4% in 2023, marking the first decline since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ted S. Warren
/
AP
It's becoming safer to cross the street. Pedestrian deaths fell by 5.4% in 2023, marking the first decline since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Crossing the street is finally becoming a bit safer. After hitting a 40-year high in 2022, pedestrian deaths decreased in 2023, according to a report published Wednesday by the Governors Highway Safety Association.

The report shows a 5.4% fall in the annual number of pedestrian deaths, the first decrease since the COVID-19 pandemic began. The association's CEO, Jonathan Adkins, says the progress is a step in the right direction.

"We're happy to see it going down, but we're not having a party," said Adkins.

The number of fatalities — 7,318 — is still far more than in 2019, before the pandemic. But Adkins said there's some evidence that new safety initiatives could be helping. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also says that overall traffic deaths are trending down so far in 2024.

Road safety advocates have pushed for a variety of measures, including lower speed limits, more sidewalks and better lighting in pedestrian areas. Adkins says that layering multiple methods is the key to preventing deaths.

"There's a lot of construction going on across the country that's making the roadways safer. We're engaging law enforcement in some new and creative ways," said Adkins. "We're looking at vehicle technology. So we're doing a lot of different things, and that's a different approach to safety in the United States."

He singled out California, which saw the greatest decrease in pedestrian deaths, for working closely with local governments. "That's different than, certainly, historically in roadway safety," he said.

Adkins says that the report's findings could reflect the start of a new trend in pedestrian safety, as initiatives continue to be implemented across the United States.

"It's really just started in the last few years. And so I'm hopeful that that's starting to pay off," he said.

Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reveals many pedestrian deaths in 2023 occurred at night in areas without sidewalks. They were most likely to involve SUVs or other large vehicles.

Camila Domonoske contributed to this story.

Copyright 2024 NPR

Lola Murti
[Copyright 2024 NPR]