With significantly fewer cars on the road during 2020, many people expected to see safer streets and a much lower death toll. However, according to NBC News, the opposite was true: pedestrian deaths were 21% higher over the previous year.
Estimated numbers put the number of pedestrian deaths in traffic crashes at 6,721. Why did the largest annual increase occur in a year with less traffic?
The role of reckless driving
Experts believe that drivers engaged in more reckless behaviors because there was less traffic. They were more likely to speed, which is a significant contributor to pedestrian fatalities. Even a 5 mph increase in speed can change the trajectory of a body struck by a vehicle.
Distracted driving is another common reckless behavior on the rise. A driver looking down or away from the road may never hit the brakes before striking a person in the crosswalk or even on the sidewalk.
The role of alcohol
The statistics so far do not indicate that there were more alcohol-related pedestrian deaths. However, the rate probably did not go down, either, as these numbers have remained consistent for years and typically make up about half of the pedestrian traffic fatalities annually.
The role of location
Most of the fatal accidents happened near businesses such as grocery stores on arterial roads with heavy traffic flow. These types of roads may be wide with higher speed limits and fewer traffic lights and intersections, and drivers are often unwilling to yield to those on foot.
As officials continue to collect and analyze the data, a fuller picture of what went wrong last year may provide guidance on how to better protect pedestrians in the future. Holding reckless drivers liable in court is one way to enforce justice and draw attention to the problem.