1. How many pedestrians are killed and injured each year?

In 2010, 70,000 pedestrians were injured in motor vehicle crashes in the United States, and 4,280 were killed. Pedestrians comprised about 13 percent of motor vehicle crash deaths.

2. Are pedestrian deaths decreasing?

Yes. Since 1975, the annual number of pedestrian deaths has declined 43 percent compared with a 23 percent decline in all motor vehicle crash deaths. Pedestrian deaths comprised 17 percent of all crash deaths in 1975 and only 13 percent in 2010. The per capita pedestrian death rate declined 60 percent since 1975 from 35 to 14 deaths per million people. During the same period, pedestrian death rates decreased 89 percent for ages 0-12, 63 percent for ages 13-19, 45 percent for ages 20-69 and 76 percent for people 70 and older.

Reasons for these steep declines are not fully known, but they probably reflect decreased walking, especially among children. A 2001 survey found that less than 15 percent of children ages 5-15 walked to school and 1 percent biked; in 1969, 48 percent of students either walked or biked to school. Traffic engineering improvements also may have reduced the number of pedestrian deaths.

3. Who is most likely to be killed or injured in a pedestrian crash?

Based on population, children younger than 13 years have the lowest pedestrian death rate of all ages — 4 per million people. Elderly pedestrians, although struck less frequently than children, are more likely to die after being struck. In 2010, the pedestrian death rate among those 70 and older was 22 per million people, more than twice the death rate for those younger than 70.

Male pedestrians are more commonly killed in collisions than female pedestrians. This is true of all age groups. In 2010, more than twice as many male pedestrians were killed as females.

4. To what extent does alcohol contribute to pedestrian deaths?

Alcohol is a major factor in pedestrian deaths. In 2010, 35 percent of fatally injured pedestrians 16 and older had blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) at or above 0.08 percent; the percentage rose to 51 percent for crashes occurring during 9 p.m.- 6 a.m. Thirteen percent of pedestrian deaths involved drivers with BACs at or above 0.08 percent.

5. Where are pedestrian crashes most likely to occur?

Most pedestrian crashes occur in urban areas where pedestrian activity is concentrated. In 2010, 73 percent of pedestrian deaths occurred in urban settings although there is a higher ratio of deaths to injuries in rural areas because of higher impact speeds on rural roads and reduced access to trauma centers.

Seventy-two percent of all pedestrian deaths in 2010 occurred on major roads including interstates and freeways. Twenty-four percent of pedestrian deaths occurred at intersections. A greater percentage of older pedestrian deaths occurred at intersections when compared with deaths of pedestrians under age 70, 37 percent versus 21 percent. This is partly because older pedestrians generally cross intersections more slowly. Diminished vision, hearing and reaction time also contribute.

The most common crash scenario involves pedestrians crossing in front of a passenger vehicle that is traveling straight. These crashes typically occur in daylight on roads with speed limits below 40 mph. The majority of pedestrian deaths occur in dark or twilight conditions and at locations other than intersections where vehicle speeds may be higher and where drivers do not expect to have to stop.

6. When are pedestrians most likely to be struck?

Fatal pedestrian crashes occur most often between 6 p.m. and midnight. They are more likely to occur on Friday or Saturday than on other days.

7. Who is at fault in most pedestrian crashes?

A 2002 Institute study of pedestrian deaths in Baltimore and Washington, D.C. revealed that pedestrians were more likely than drivers to be judged at fault in these collisions, 50 percent versus 39 percent, with the remainder having shared fault. Pedestrians were almost always judged culpable in midblock and intersection dash crashes, the kind involving a pedestrian who appears suddenly in the path of a vehicle. Drivers were usually at fault in other crash types such as when a vehicle is turning or backing up, or when a vehicle leaves the road and strikes a pedestrian.

8. How do most pedestrian injuries occur?

Most pedestrians are struck by the front of a passenger vehicle. What happens next depends on a number of factors including the speed of the vehicle and the relative heights of the pedestrian, the front end of the vehicle and the bumper. For a pedestrian struck by a passenger car, the initial contacts are with the vehicle bumper and/or the front edge of the hood depending on the shape of the vehicle front structure. When pedestrians are struck by taller vehicles such as SUVs or pickup trucks, the impact is higher on the body. Typically, larger vehicles mean more serious injuries and higher risk of death.

Generally, with a young child, the bumper will strike the thigh, and the front edge of the hood will strike the torso. With an adult, the bumper will strike the knee, and the front edge of the hood will strike the thigh. At low impact speeds, e.g., below 10-12 mph, these may be the only contacts between a pedestrian and vehicle, but at higher speeds, a pedestrian
usually slides over the front edge of the hood before the upper body strikes the vehicle hood or windshield. With larger vehicles, the pedestrian may instead be thrown to the ground in front of the vehicle. As crash speeds increase, the severity of the pedestrian's injuries is likely to increase. Injuries to pedestrians most frequently involve their heads, legs or arms.

9. How can the frequency or severity of pedestrian crashes be reduced?

Roadway design: A 2003 Institute review of traffic
engineering measures to reduce pedestrian crashes identified several effective approaches which generally can be classified into three broad categories: separating pedestrians from vehicles by time or space, making pedestrians easier to spot and reducing vehicle speeds.

Effective countermeasures involving separation include sidewalks, overpasses and underpasses, refuge islands in the medians of busy two way streets and exclusive traffic signal phasing that stops all vehicle traffic for part or all of the pedestrian crossing signal duration. Effective measures to help drivers see pedestrians include brighter roadway lighting, diagonal parking and relocation of bus stops at traffic signals from the near to the far side of the intersection.

Higher vehicle speeds are strongly associated with both a greater likelihood of pedestrian crashes and more serious pedestrian injuries. Effective engineering measures to reduce speeds in urban areas include construction of roundabouts in place of stop signs and traffic signals, traffic calming devices such as speed humps and multiway stop signs. Speed limits should be strictly enforced in areas of pedestrian activity.

Allowing right turns at red lights has been shown to increase pedestrian collisions at intersections, especially in urban areas, so curbing this practice in areas of high pedestrian activity should reduce pedestrian collisions.

Extending the time available for pedestrians to cross at intersections with signals can be beneficial, especially for older pedestrians. A 2000 Institute study found that providing pedestrians a three second head start through a leading pedestrian interval, a signal that allows pedestrians to begin crossing before the release of turning vehicles, reduces conflicts between pedestrians and turning vehicles.

Pedestrian countdown signals, which show the amount of time remaining to cross the street, have been shown to reduce conflicts between vehicles and pedestrians at urban intersections. Special warning signs and pavement markings to encourage or prompt pedestrians to look for turning vehicles as they cross the street may help at signalized intersections. A 1996 Institute study found that sign prompts and crosswalk warning messages increased the percentage of pedestrians looking for threats from turning vehicles and decreased the number of conflicts.

Vehicle design: Vehicle design can influence the type and severity of pedestrian injuries. Modifying the front structures of passenger vehicles to reduce the severity of pedestrian injuries has been the subject of research for decades.

As a result of this research, regulators in Europe, Japan, Korea, and Australia have implemented vehicle testing programs specifically aimed at protecting pedestrians. While the U.S. government has not implemented a pedestrian protection vehicle testing program, it has participated in efforts to develop an international pedestrian vehicle safety standard. These testing programs focus on pedestrian interaction with the hood and bumper, and in some cases the hood edge and the windshield. To perform well in these tests, automakers have been putting more room between the hood and engine, designing pop-up hoods that automatically lift up a few inches upon impact and designing bumpers with more give. It's too soon to tell whether or not these new designs will reduce pedestrian injuries.

Crash avoidance technologies also may help prevent or mitigate the severity of pedestrian crashes. Forward collision warning systems continuously monitor traffic in front of vehicles and warn drivers of potential collisions. Some systems automatically apply the brakes when a crash is imminent. Most current systems are designed primarily to address front-to-rear crashes with leading vehicles in traffic. Some new systems are designed to prevent or mitigate crashes with pedestrians. These systems use multiple sensors and advanced algorithms to identify and characterize a broader range of potential hazards. Although these technologies have the potential to prevent pedestrian crashes or reduce the likelihood of serious injuries to pedestrians, their effectiveness in real world crashes is unknown.

10. Do education programs aimed at changing pedestrians' behavior help reduce crashes?

Public education programs generally have not been effective in reducing pedestrian crashes. Children, however, are an exception: A 2002 systematic research review found that safety education could improve children's knowledge and change their observed road crossing behavior.

Educational messages that instruct children about street crossings have reduced midblock crashes involving kids darting out into the street. In particular, the federal "Willy Whistle" program to teach youngsters how to cross between intersections was associated with a 12 percent reduction in overall child pedestrian collisions and a 21 percent decline in the incidence of motorists striking children who dashed out midblock or from between parked cars. Tested in Los Angeles, Milwaukee and Columbus, Ohio, during 1976-78, the program included a film, posters and media advertisements.

There also is evidence that education programs for children are effective when combined with engineering and other types of interventions.

11. Does daylight saving time help reduce pedestrian crashes?

Institute research has shown that extending daylight saving time year round could help prevent pedestrian deaths and injuries. Adding an hour of light to the afternoon increases the visibility of both vehicles and pedestrians. Researchers estimated that about 900 fatal crashes, 727 involving pedestrians and 174 involving vehicle occupants, could have been avoided during 1987-91 if daylight saving time had been in effect throughout the year.

12. Do electric and hybrid vehicles represent a problem for pedestrians because of their quiet motors?

A vehicle's sound helps pedestrians, especially those who are visually impaired, detect a vehicle's presence and movements. Electric and hybrid electric vehicles emit less sound than vehicles with combustion engines when powered solely by electricity.

A government study examined the crashes of hybrid vehicles and similar nonhybrid vehicles and found that the percent of crashes involving pedestrians was 35 percent higher for hybrids than for nonhybrids. The likelihood of crashing with a pedestrian was 39 percent higher for hybrids than for nonhybrids in areas where speed limits were 35 mph or slower and 66 percent higher when performing certain maneuvers such as turning, stopping and backing up. These maneuvers typically occur at very low speeds when hybrids operate mostly on electric power. The likelihood of crashing with a pedestrian on the roadway away from intersections was 50 percent higher for hybrids than for nonhybrids.

In a study of insurance claims for 2002-10 hybrid models and their conventional twins, the Highway Loss Data Institute found hybrids were as much as 20 percent more likely to be involved in pedestrian crashes with injuries than their non-hybrid equivalents. Claims were assumed to stem from a pedestrian crash if they involved an injury liability claim without a claim for vehicle damage.

In 2011, Congress gave the Department of Transportation three years to come up with a requirement for equipping quiet vehicles with sounds to warn pedestrians about a vehicle's approach. Once the final rule is issued, manufacturers will have three years to fully comply. Some manufacturers have already added noise voluntarily. For example, the electric Nissan Leaf produces an airplane like whooshing sound at low speeds.


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