According to a traffic crash fatality statistics report released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on Oct. 22, there was a 2.4% reduction in overall road fatalities from 2017 to 2018, decreasing from 37,437 to 36,560 deaths. In fact, a number of categories related to traffic fatalities saw reductions as well: there were fewer children fatalities, speeding-related fatalities, motorcyclist fatalities and alcohol-impaired fatalities. While this is all uplifting news, there is one particular category that experienced a sharp increase in deaths: non-motorists (i.e., pedestrians and cyclists).
The 6,283 deaths in 2018 made it the deadliest year on U.S. roads for pedestrians since 1990. This is in line with an alarming overall increase in pedestrian fatalities, which have skyrocketed by 50% in the past decade. There were over 200 more pedestrian deaths in 2018 than 2017, which is a 3.5% increase. Cyclist deaths jumped at an even higher rate, rising 6.3% in the same one-year span.
A separate Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) report on pedestrian traffic fatalities by state found that Massachusetts had one of the lowest pedestrian traffic fatality rates among all states, with a rate of 0.55 pedestrian fatalities per 100,000 people. This is less than one-quarter of New Mexico’s pedestrian fatality rate, which was the highest in the nation at 2.26 deaths per 100,000 people.
What Massachusetts is Doing to Reduce Pedestrian and Cyclist Fatalities
The same GHSA report details states’ efforts to reduce pedestrian fatalities, such as Massachusetts providing additional funding to 84 state police departments “to conduct overtime enforcement patrols aimed at reducing pedestrian and bicyclist injuries and fatalities.” Recipients of this funding were allowed purchased pedestrian and cyclist safety equipment, such as traffic cones, crosswalk markers and signs and bicycle helmets. On top of that, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) conducted a safety evaluation of 34 signalized intersections and made improvements in timing, signal equipment, signage and pavement marking upgrades. The Massachusetts Office of Highway Safety also collaborated with MassDOT to develop educational media messaging on pedestrian safety.
With rising fatality rates, however, it is clear that further action is needed to improve pedestrian and cyclist safety. The key to enhanced safety may lie in the patterns observed by the NHTSA regarding the deaths. For example, half of cyclist fatalities and over three in four pedestrian fatalities occurred after dark. Additional street lighting, the installation of blinking-light crosswalks and lowering speed limits on pedestrian and cyclist-heavy roads are some safety recommendations that could make a lifesaving difference.
If you or a loved one was injured in a pedestrian or cyclist accident, call the experienced attorneys at Sweeney Merrigan Law, LLP in Boston today at (619) 391-6001 to discuss your legal options.