More Pedestrians Are Dying in Car Accidents Today Than in 2009

Today, over 50% more Americans are dying in car vs. pedestrian accidents compared to 10 years ago. In 2009, there were just 4,109 pedestrian fatalities across the U.S. While that number is still high, it was low compared to years before. But in 2018, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported 6,238 pedestrian fatalities.

And this steady increase in pedestrian fatalities doesn’t seem to be getting better. According to the NHSTA, an estimated 6,590 pedestrians were killed in auto accidents in 2019. That is 5% more pedestrian fatalities than in 2018. We haven’t seen pedestrian fatalities this high since 1988.

When you look at the statistics for other vehicle accidents, the total number of deaths increased by only 2% since 2009. Overall auto accident deaths have dropped by an estimated 3.4% since 2018. Car manufacturers equip newer vehicles with crash-avoidance technology like automatic emergency braking and sensors to help drivers avoid collisions. This technology helps with car vs. car accidents—but they do little to protect pedestrians crossing the street. 

Just like you, we’re wondering, “Why are more American pedestrians dying? What’s changed in the last 10 years?” That answer isn’t so simple. Below, we highlight some issues contributing to this sudden rise in pedestrian deaths. We also discuss what we’ve seen at our practice while representing victims of pedestrian vs. car accidents.    

Why are more pedestrians getting hit by cars?


According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, here are the top 5 contributing factors in the 50% increase in U.S. pedestrian fatalities since 2009:

1. Distracted Driving and Smart Phones

As the pedestrian fatality rate climbed year after year, more people began switching to smartphones. In fact, the number of smartphones used nationwide increased by 400% from 2009 to 2018. Smartphones are a significant source of both cognitive and visual distraction for all road users. There’s no doubt that smartphones and distracted driving are playing a role in this sudden increase in pedestrian deaths.     

2. Driving under the influence

In that 10-year period, roughly 16% of drivers in pedestrian vs. car accidents had a blood-alcohol concentration that exceeded the legal limit. 

3. Weather conditions

Weather conditions also contributed to this increase in pedestrian fatalities. Nearly half of all pedestrian deaths in the first six months of 2019 happened in just 5 states: California, Texas, Florida, Georgia, and Arizona. The Governors Highway Safety Association reported these states’ warmer weather as a potential factor.

4. Driving at night

Many of the fatal pedestrian vs. car accidents happened during the nighttime. From 2009 to 2018, the number of nighttime pedestrian fatalities increased by 67% compared to a 16% increase in daytime pedestrian fatalities.

5. More SUVs on the road

Car sales show that more and more Americans prefer buying and driving SUVs and light trucks over passenger cars. These larger vehicles, however, are more likely to kill a pedestrian because they weigh more and sit higher off the ground. From 2009 to 2018, the number of fatal accidents involving SUVs and trucks increased by 81%, compared with a 53% increase in passenger cars. 

How Our Chicago Lawyers Help Victims of Car vs. Pedestrian Accidents

At Shannon Law Group, we have helped many folks whose lives were drastically changed after they were hit by a vehicle while going about their day. We’ve come through for our injured clients and their families against transportation companies and their bad drivers in the courtroom.

In one of our appellate cases, Baumrucker v. Express Taxi Cab, our client was hit in the crosswalk by a cab driver who had not been vetted at all and had a history of reckless driving. The jury found that the cab company had acted recklessly in hiring the driver and awarded punitive damages against the cab company.  In Baumrucker, we set the precedent for holding transportation companies liable for reckless hiring of drivers, as well as setting some of the standards for when punitive damages are appropriately applied. 

Many of our pending cases currently filed in Cook and Will County also center around a fatal pedestrian vs. car accident. We’re helping the victim’s family pursue compensation for their loved one’s wrongful death. In one case, our deceased client was walking in a crosswalk and had the right of way. A semi-truck struck them, knocking them to the pavement, and then proceeded to run our client over.

In our eyes, one pedestrian death is too many. These deaths are preventable. We hope to see a downward trend in pedestrian deaths in the next decade.


Governors Highway Safety Association.

NHSTA Fatality Analysis Reporting System.

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