DETROIT — The number of traffic deaths on U.S. roadways fell slightly during the first nine months of 2022, but pedestrian and cyclist deaths continued to rise.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 31,785 people were killed in crashes from January through September last year, down 0.2% from the same period of 2021.
The agency also estimates that fatalities dropped slightly in the third quarter of the year, the second straight quarterly decline after seven quarters of year-over-year increases.
Agency Acting Administrator Ann Carlson says in a prepared statement Monday that there’s still more work to do to address a crisis on the nation’s roads. She’s urging people to drive safely and watch out for vulnerable road users such as pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.
LM Otero, Associated Press
Drivers work their way out of Dallas during rush hour in 2016. The number of traffic deaths on U.S. roadways fell slightly during the first nine months of 2022.
The Governors Highway Safety Association, a group of state traffic safety officials, said the reduction in deaths is welcome, but it follows an unprecedented two-year surge in roadway deaths and dangerous driving.
The number of deaths is down by only 65 from January through September. “Today’s news is a small step forward for safer roads,” the group said, blaming the spike in the 2020 and 2021 on unsafe driver behavior including speeding, impaired and distracted driving and lack of seat belt use.
Fatalities began to rise two years ago when roads were largely empty due to stay-at-home orders in many states. With less traffic, speeds increased as did reckless and impaired driving, leading to a record spike in deaths last year, authorities have said. Many people weren’t wearing seat belts, the government said.
NHTSA says its estimates typically are close to actual numbers. Final figures for 2022 won’t be released until later.
NHTSA said that Americans continue to drive more than during the height of the pandemic, with preliminary Federal Highway Administration data showing a 1.6% increase in vehicle miles traveled in the first nine months of last year. As a result, the estimated fatality rate for the period fell to 1.3 deaths per 100 million miles traveled, compared with 1.32 a year earlier.
The number of cyclists killed rose 8% through September of last year, the agency estimated, while motorcyclist deaths rose 5% and pedestrian deaths were up 2%.
Fatalities on rural interstates rose 12% during the first nine months of 2022, and crashes involving at least one large truck were up 10%, according to NHTSA estimates.
But deaths fell 10% on urban collector and local roads, and dropped 10% among children younger than 16. Speeding-related crashes fell 2% during the period, and decreased 7% among people who weren’t wearing seat belts.
Nearly 43,000 people were killed on U.S. roads in 2021, the highest number in 16 years as Americans returned to the roads. The 10.5% jump over 2020 numbers was the largest percentage increase since NHTSA began its fatality data collection system in 1975.
In an effort to reduce the deaths, the federal government is sending $5 billion in aid to cities and localities to slow vehicles, carve out bike paths and nudge commuters to public transit.
In 2022, U.S. pedestrian fatalities are projected to reach their highest level in 40 years, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. Last year, drivers struck and killed an estimated 7,485 people, which amounts to an average of 20 deaths daily.
Cities aren't created equal when it comes to pedestrian safety. MoneyGeek analyzed traffic fatality data collected from 2017 through 2020 for 305 cities across the country to find the most dangerous cities for pedestrians. Here's what we found.
- Vehicle-related pedestrian deaths increased 7% from 2017 to 2020, with 6,540 pedestrian fatalities in 2020.
- Fort Lauderdale is the deadliest city for pedestrians, experiencing an average of 7.7 vehicle-related pedestrian deaths per 100,000 residents yearly. There, approximately 39% of all car accident fatalities are pedestrian fatalities.
- Fargo, North Dakota, Pearland, Texas, and Clovis, California, tied for the safest cities for pedestrians, each averaging 0.20 annual pedestrian fatalities per 100,000 residents.
- 8 of the 20 deadliest cities for pedestrians are located in Florida and California.
MoneyGeek analyzed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Fatality Analysis Reporting System data from 2017 through 2020 for 305 cities to determine the safest and most dangerous cities for pedestrians in the U.S. Cities were ranked in order of highest overall pedestrian death rates per 100,000 residents to lowest, and only included cities with populations of 100,000 or more in their ranking.
Most Dangerous Cities for Pedestrians
Some cities, like Memphis, Tennessee, had more vehicle-related pedestrian fatalities in four years of data (164 deaths) than Fort Lauderdale, Florida (56 deaths), which ranks as the most dangerous city for pedestrians. Why is that?
In this study, MoneyGeek broke down the average annual pedestrian fatalities per 100,000 residents. Memphis' population in 2020 was 650,910. Fort Lauderdale's was only 181,818. You'd expect more deaths in a city like Memphis than in Fort Lauderdale, which is the case. Still, Fort Lauderdale is statistically a more dangerous city for pedestrians.
Memphis ranked No. 4 on MoneyGeek's most dangerous cities for pedestrians list. In between Fort Lauderdale and Memphis are Little Rock, Arkansas, at No. 2 and Jackson, Mississippi, at No.3. In fifth place is West Palm Beach, Florida, with 30 deaths from 2017 to 2020 — this is significant, given its relatively small population of 111,006.
Safest Cities for Pedestrians
We found that Fargo, North Dakota, Pearland, Texas, and Clovis, California, tied for the safest cities for pedestrians, each with 0.20 annual pedestrian fatalities per 100,000 residents.
Among the safest cities, Santa Clarita, California (No.11), Irvine, California (No.12), and Gilbert, Arizona (No.18), all have populations of 200,000 or more.
Safe cities for pedestrians seem to be scattered throughout the U.S.; five of the safest cities are located in California, four in Texas, two in Indiana, and one in North Dakota, North Carolina, Washington, Massachusetts, Utah, New Hampshire, Illinois, Arizona, and Colorado.
Pedestrians can take some relatively simple, practical steps to stay safe on sidewalks and roadways. MoneyGeek outlined a few of the most impactful potential steps below.
While there are some steps pedestrians can take to protect themselves, it's crucial that drivers also take responsibility for keeping pedestrians safe.
When you're driving, always keep your eyes on the road. According to the United States Department of Transportation, distracted driving claimed 3,142 lives in 2020. It's imperative that people don't find themselves becoming distracted drivers by texting, fiddling with their stereo or struggling with their navigation system while behind the wheel.
Your Responsibilities as a Driver
While there are some steps pedestrians can take to protect themselves, it's crucial that drivers also take responsibility for keeping pedestrians safe. When you're driving, the advice is straightforward: always keep your eyes on the road, obey the speed limits, and don't drive under the influence.
It's always safer to travel at slower speeds, especially in areas with pedestrian traffic. Lower speeds give drivers a better chance of avoiding pedestrians altogether. When it comes to surviving an accident, our analysis of pedestrian accident survival rates found that every 10 mph faster a car is traveling doubles the chance of death for a pedestrian.
Hitting a pedestrian can result in criminal charges and loss of your license. If you are at fault, you'll probably be sued too. Securing good car insurance coverage is important to protect you from liability in the event the worst happens.
Financially, an at-fault accident on your record can increase the cost of insurance by 57%. In the worst case, where you need auto coverage that includes an SR-22, you'll pay even more. If you've never heard of SR-22, it is an additional filing from an insurer that high-risk drivers may be required to have to keep driving.
To rank the most dangerous cities for pedestrians, MoneyGeek analyzed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) data from 2017 through 2020 and created an annual average for pedestrian fatalities resulting from vehicles. Using this metric, MoneyGeek calculated each city's pedestrian fatalities per 100,000 residents.
MoneyGeek also analyzed the total number of vehicle-related fatalities to calculate a percentage of pedestrian fatalities to see how many pedestrian deaths constitute total vehicle-related fatalities.
This analysis only analyzes pedestrian fatalities among cities with a population of 100,000 or more.
This story originally appeared on MoneyGeek and has been independently reviewed to meet journalistic standards.