More pedestrians were killed in 2010 than in 2009, marking the first annual increase after four years of declines, according to a new GHSA report.More pedestrians were killed by cars last year than in 2009, according to a new report released Thursday by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA). According to preliminary data, which was based on U.S. fatalities in the first six months of 2010, pedestrian traffic deaths rose in 2010 after four straight years of decline.

The increase is small, only 0.4%, but after the previous declines, for the number "to have gone up again, even if slightly, is a concern," says Barbara Harsha, executive director of the GHSA, which represents state highway safety offices.

The higher projected pedestrian fatalities comes in spite of an 8% drop in overall highway fatalities during the first six months of 2010, the report says, adding that the association had expected to see a similar decrease in pedestrian deaths.

Why More Pedestrians are Dying

The association has been studying the issue since some states reported the higher numbers, Harsha said. While the report's researchers have no data or scientific studies to support their theories, they say that more distraction -- due to the increased use of electronic devices, both by pedestrians and drivers -- could be one of the main reasons for the growth.

More people are walking while listening to music and talking and texting on cell phones, the report speculates. "They are not paying attention and they are getting clobbered," Harsha says.

Another driver could be a greater interest in heath and wellness, which may have resulted in more walking. Having more walkers out on the roads could increase the chances that more of those pedestrians would be hit.

But the most notable fatality increases occurred in some surprising states. Instead of in high-population states with large urban areas, or in states with a high percentage of older adults -- such as New Jersey, New York and Texas, which experienced a reduction in pedestrian deaths -- some of the biggest increases came from North Carolina, Oklahoma and Oregon. "We don't really know what's going on in those states," Harsha says.

In Oregon, for example, more than half of the pedestrians who were killed were under the influence of intoxicants. That state also experienced a rise in "aggressive pedestrians," according to the report, such as walkers who don't use crosswalks and, in some cases, even walking in the interstate driving lanes.

Fewer Child Fatalities; More Adults

A breakdown of 2010 deaths by age isn't yet available, but the report did include some trends based on earlier data. The biggest change during the last 10 years, for example, has been a steady decrease in pedestrian fatalities among school-age children. More safety education, combined with less walking, may have contributed to the decline, according to the report.

However, deaths among baby boomers between 45 and 64 years old have been on the rise, according to the report. And Harsha expects to see more deaths, especially in the 20- to 29-year-old age group, as more people use electronic devices.

All these collisions have more than an emotional impact; they're also a major economic loss. In 2002, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated the lifetime economic impact of all U.S. motor-vehicle crashes at $230.6 billion dollars. "It's probably even more now," Harsha says.

While pedestrians make up a small portion of highway deaths, approximately 12%, the lifetime medical costs and the economic impact of all the lost productivity can be huge -- especially considering that so many pedestrian-crash victims are young, she adds. "It's an enormous expense, but people don't realize it," Harsha says. "And a large portion of it is borne by the public. It's something everyone should be concerned about."

How to Save Pedestrians

The report is important because it draws attention to pedestrians, who are the most vulnerable road users because "they have no car or helmet to protect them," says Bella Dinh-Zarr, the North American director of the global Make Roads Safe initiative.

"There is a fear that walking more will cause more fatalities, but in the long run, I think it is going to be a positive impact. There will be better awareness and focus on what we can do," such as creating better crosswalks, sidewalks and overpasses, and improving the lighting at night, says Dinh-Zarr said, who is also the director of road safety for the FIA Foundation for the Automobile and Society, a London-based nonprofit.

In Europe, where walking is much more common,"they make sure pedestrians are a priority," she adds. "Everyone is always heartbroken when a child dies, but most pedestrian deaths could be prevented."

For the full report, Spotlight on Safety: Pedestrian Traffic Fatalities by State, including state-by-state data, click

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I am a crossing guard in the city of Fountain Valley, Ca. It is my opinion that people are running red stop lights without caring about who is in the street and the cops are not inforcing that law, I have seen this first hand and have almost been hit 5 times in 3 years. the red light laws need to be inforced with strict fines of $1000,00, first offense. The cell phones and text machines should be not allowed in moving auto, if caught with one in car,, fine should be at least
$ 500.00. you fools who use these in cars are nothing more then Idiotts.
slow down and obey the laws of this state.

January 21 2011 at 4:42 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to nodyelsnik's comment

maybe you should look before entering an intersection, stop blaming your problems on everyone else and voting for government tyranny.

January 25 2011 at 1:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Could it be that these self-absorbed Baby Boomers were too busy rebelling against their parents that they've forgotten the good stuff, like "Always Look Both Ways Before Crossing the Street?"

I say let Darwinism take its course and get these dumbasses out of the gene pool.

January 21 2011 at 3:05 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Speaking of which, I wonder how many cyclists get killed.

January 20 2011 at 10:17 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Sure, in Europe, pedestrians are a priority but they have some of the most reckless, impatient drivers I have ever seen!! Like the streets of Rome, which are a pedestrian's nightmare. Yes, Rome is a wonderful city, but just be twice as careful when crossing the street while sightseeing. And in Belgium, those drivers will zoom right past u. In fact, I had a bad experience w/ one of those Belgian cars in late September, but I didn't count as a pedestrian b/c I was on a bicycle. Anyway, I was riding my bike when this guy comes outta side street and, since he was looking the other way and couldn't see me, kept on pulling up and slammed right into me. Of course I came out alive and mildly bruised but it made me paranoid about crossing the street on a bike and even more paranoid about crossing the street on foot.

January 20 2011 at 10:11 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

pedestrian has the right o' way in most places. not here

January 20 2011 at 9:19 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I was hit by a car in 1989 while crossing in a crosswalk. I did everything right: walked with the light, made eye contact with the driver before starting across the street. I was almost past the driver's side when the driver pulled forward & caught me behind my left knee, knocking me to the ground on my right hip. The accident, & it was an accident, was caused by the driver looking to her left for traffic to clear so that she could take a free right at a red light, which is legal in Washington State. The driver only looked left when pulling forward, neither looking both directions before pulling forward, something I see so commonly on my continuing pedestrian status some 22 years later that I am absolutely paranoid about crossing in a crosswalk. My downside of that experience is that I was considered worthless by the insurance company that settled with me because I was "just a housewife," but the delay in finding work led to me losing custody of my children in the divorce, feeding the parental alienation their father took the opportunity to impose because I was forced to give temporary custody of my children to their father which turned into malicious loss of my children because of his hatred for me. A reasonable settlement would have allowed me to keep my home & feed my children until I was well enough to look for work again, not putting me in the situation that I alone, not our society, paid the price for. Ever since this accident, I have had lower back issues, and almost every time I cross a street I wind up yielding to a right turning car who disregards my right to cross with the light, making me wait to cross, losing time to cross safely, & increasing the chance that I will be hit again as I arrive at the other side of the street with another driver preparing to make a right turn. In general, people do not yield to the pedestrian. And I am just as angry at pedestrians who doddle as they cross the street, or put themselves at risk through arrogant behavior in crossing traffic. The driver who hit me in 1989 was traumatized by the accident; she did not mean to hit me. Drivers have enough stress on the road without pedestrians adding to the mix by practicing unsafe habits when sharing the road with drivers. I always look twice before I cross: Left, right, left, & I watch for unexpected behaviors from drivers from all directions at an intersection.

January 20 2011 at 8:41 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

How many deaths of pedestrians were involving hybrid or electric cars. I guarantee this would have to do with the rise. These cars are so quiet it caught me off guard once walking on my own block. I know, look before you cross not listen before you walk.

January 20 2011 at 7:32 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Easy solution- Don't wear headphones while walking and use all of your senses. Being a New Yorker, I've always felt blind and unaware of my surroundings while wearing headphones crossing these streets. Since the introduction of the Sony Walkman, I can count on my fingers how many times I've worn headphones outside. I've preserved my hearing and I can STILL hear that sound of rolling tires approaching. It's saved my life many times while faced with reckless drivers.

January 20 2011 at 7:23 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

OMG!!! SHOULDN'T The GOVERNMENT Do Something about this!!! I Know! Let's OUTLAW Crossing the street!! After's For our *OWN* Good!!!!! The Government Knows *BEST*!.....

January 20 2011 at 6:47 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to jyob's comment

Won't happen any time soon; they are too busy studying/funding research as to why animals and humans clench their teeth when angry and other important things like that. Also they have taken to task to delve deeper into Bill Cosby's statement from the 60's "Why is there air"?

January 21 2011 at 8:21 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

In Oregon, there are some legitimate cases where the pedestrian was in the right and the motorist was not paying attention or was drunk, speeding, etc. But there are also a lot of pedestrians trying to cross a busy street without going to a crosswalk or a light - even if the light is just 1/2 a block away. Also, I've seen Portland create crosswalks around the corner on a blind curve. And then, too, I've seen pedestrians just step into the road in a crosswalk when the oncoming car was already at the crosswalk. It's like they expect the car to be able to stop instantly and will step out immediately in front of a car. The poor motorist doesn't have a chance here between the pedestrians that are crossing wherever they want and the bicyles that are running red lights and stop signs and coming up along your car in your blind spot.

January 20 2011 at 6:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply