Pedestrian deaths increased 30% in Massachusetts in 2021. Nationwide, drivers hit and killed an average of 20 pedestrians each day for a total of 7,485 pedestrian deaths in 2021 — the most pedestrian deaths in a year in the past four decades. As a city, Boston had the most pedestrian deaths in 5 years in 2021.
This represents a 12% nationwide increase in pedestrian deaths from 2020. An estimated 71 pedestrians died in Massachusetts in 2021, up from 55 deaths in 2020. Part of the reason this increase is so drastic is because fewer people drove during the COVID pandemic shutdowns. For comparison, there were an estimated 76 pedestrian deaths in Massachusetts in 2019.
“Massachusetts has not experienced the rate of growth in pedestrian fatalities seen in many other states. But we have not seen the progress in reducing pedestrian deaths and injuries that is needed to create safer streets in our communities,” Stacey Beuttell, executive director of the nonprofit WalkBoston, told The Boston Herald. “The continued growth in vehicle miles traveled combined with increases in the size and weight of vehicles have stymied progress.”
Why Have Pedestrian Deaths Increased in Massachusetts?
In a recent report, the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) examined data to find out when, where, and how deadly car and pedestrian accidents are happening. Not only did pedestrian accidents increase, but all U.S. traffic deaths combined also reached a 16-year high in 2021.
One of the biggest risks is speed. In 2020, the percent of deadly pedestrian accidents involving speeding rose to 8.6%, about a 1.5% increase from 2019. Specifically, speeding was involved in 10% of fatal pedestrian deaths on interstates, and 12% of fatal pedestrian accidents on local roads.
The faster someone is driving, the more likely a pedestrian could be killed in an accident. If a driver is traveling 23 mph and strikes a pedestrian, there is about a 10% chance that the pedestrian will die. If a driver is traveling at 58 mph and strikes a pedestrian, there is a 90% chance that the accident will be fatal.
Speeding-related pedestrian crashes involving children 15 years old or younger more than doubled in the past three years. Most of the pedestrian fatalities involving children happen during daylight hours on weekdays. These findings are available in the GHSA’s “Pedestrian Traffic Fatalities by State: 2021 Preliminary Data” report.
About 16% of fatal pedestrian accidents involved drunk drivers, with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or higher. Interestingly, 31% of pedestrians 16 years old or older who were killed in a car crash had a BAC of 0.08 or higher. This reveals that walking under the influence of alcohol, not just driving under the influence, is hazardous.
Fatal Pedestrian Accident Statistics Reveal:
- Pedestrian deaths rose 54% in the past decade, while all other traffic deaths rose 13%. In 2020, pedestrians accounted for 17% of all traffic deaths.
- Pedestrian deaths in crashes with SUVs have increased at a faster rate in the past decade than deaths involving passenger cars.
- Most pedestrian deaths happen at night. Nighttime pedestrian deaths rose 41% from 2014 to 2020.
- Most pedestrian fatalities, about 67%, happen where there is no sidewalk.
- Majority - about 76% - of pedestrian fatalities did not take place in intersections.
- Nearly ¼ of fatal accidents happen on local roads, while about 17% happen on interstates and freeways.
- Pedestrians struck on freeways and interstates are typically: stranded motorists who exit their cars, construction workers, first responders, and tow truck drivers.
- About 40% of fatal pedestrian accidents involve passenger cars, 20% involve SUVs and 16% involve pickup trucks.
How To Reduce Pedestrian Deaths
The two basic lines of defense when it comes to preventing pedestrian deaths are: 1) preventing the crash from happening in the first place, and 2) mitigating the physical effects of any crash though a variety of tactics such as reducing speed in areas where pedestrians are present.
Redesigning streets to calm traffic, limiting drivers’ ability to speed through local streets or residential areas, and raising pedestrian crossings are among the most effective strategies to reduce pedestrian fatalities, according to Beuttell.
Unfortunately, many pedestrian deaths are caused by common behaviors, including speeding and other dangerous driving behaviors, said Jonathan Adkins, the GHSA executive director. Inadequate infrastructure and roads that are primarily designed for vehicle speed rather than community safety also add to the peak in the pedestrian death toll.
The GHSA report explains something called a “Safe System” approach. The five elements of the approach are 1) safe people, 2) safe roads, 3) safe vehicles, 4) safe speeds and 5) post-crash care. The goal of this approach is to create a transportation system that takes human mistakes into account and seeks to keep crash impacts at survivable levels in the event people are struck by cars. The ultimate end goal: to eliminate all road deaths and serious injuries by creating multiple layers of protection.
The system calls for:
- Infrastructure improvements to equitably improve roadway safety in all socioeconomic communities.
- Road design changes.
- Safer roads include raised pedestrian crossings, pedestrian refuge islands in the median of two-way streets, street lighting, and sidewalks.
- Equitable traffic law enforcement.
- Education and public outreach.
- Emergency response efforts in both urban and rural areas to reduce traffic crashes, injuries and deaths.
Safer roads can prioritize pedestrian safety, safer vehicles can help prevent crashes, and better post-crash emergency response can improve survival rates. Ultimately, safe drivers, safe bicyclists, and safe pedestrians are at the core of reducing pedestrian deaths.
Injured In A Pedestrian Accident in Boston or Massachusetts? Get A FREE Consultation With A Pedestrian Accident Lawyer
Pedestrian accidents are among the most serious cases we see. They almost always result in serious injuries or even death. If you were injured as a pedestrian in Massachusetts, you have rights and may be able to get compensation for your medical bills, time lost from work, pain and suffering and more. Visit our results page to see how we’ve helped Massachusetts pedestrians after tragic accidents.