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How the Pandemic Has Affected Pedestrian Deaths

Pedestrian crossing the street with a car moving towards him

From our daily routines to how we interact with others, the impacts of COVID-19 have changed our lives and relationships in many ways. One of the ways the pandemic has affected our lives is how much we drive—and how we drive when we do. According to AAA1, Americans decreased their personal car trips by 45% in early 2020. From an average of 3.7 trips a day for all modes of transportation in 2019, Americans traveled only 2.2 trips per day on average in 2020. However, travel has started to rebound.

With the shift in driving behaviors because of the pandemic comes the question: How have the changes in pandemic driving affected pedestrian traffic deaths? The answer is surprising. Our pedestrian accident attorneys explain.

What Are the Latest Pedestrian Death Statistics?

Contrary to what you might expect, traffic and pedestrian accident deaths increased during the pandemic, despite a decrease in overall travel.

According to the New York Times2, traffic deaths in the United States increased to 6,700 in 2020, up from 6,412 in 2019. That figure represents a 5% increase in pedestrian accident deaths year over year. When based on miles traveled, pedestrian deaths per year increased 21% in 2020.

Traffic and Pedestrian Death Statistics in Colorado

Based on number from the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT)3, here are pandemic statistics for pedestrian deaths in the state:

  • In 2021, 91 pedestrian traffic fatalities occurred in Colorado. The figure represents 13.2% of all traffic fatalities that year. The 2021 numbers are still preliminary and are expected to increase as data is collected throughout 2022.
  • Pedestrian fatalities in the State of Colorado dipped in 2019 before rebounding in the peak years of the pandemic:
    • 2021 = 91 deaths (preliminary reports) – 13.2% of all traffic fatalities
    • 2020 = 93 deaths – 15% of all traffic fatalities in Colorado
    • 2019 = 76 deaths – 12.7% of all traffic fatalities in Colorado
    • 2018 = 90 deaths – 14.2% of all traffic fatalities in Colorado
    • 2017 = 92 deaths – 14.2% of all traffic fatalities in Colorado
  • In total, 672 people died on Colorado roads in 2021. However, the number is preliminary and is expected to increase as data continues to be collected. Traffic deaths in Colorado in 2021 increased 8% from 2020 numbers.
  • Drivers suffer the highest fatality rate in accidents, with 35.7% of 2020 traffic deaths in Colorado being vehicle drivers. In addition:
    • 9% were passengers
    • 5% were motorcyclists
    • 15% were pedestrians
    • Bicyclists accounted for 2.4%

Pedestrian Death Statistics – Other States and Cities

Based on data provided by the New York Times2 and Seattle Times4, here are other pedestrian death statistics in other states:

  • In New Mexico, there were 99 pedestrian deaths in 2021. The number represents a sharp increase from 81 deaths in 2020 and 83 deaths in 2019.
  • New Mexico reported the highest pedestrian traffic deaths in 2021 since they began tracking the data in the 1990s.
  • In Seattle, there were 19 pedestrian traffic deaths in 2021. Nearly half of these deaths were hit-and-runs.
  • For the State of Washington, overall traffic deaths increased to 540 in 2021, up from 536 deaths in 2020, 517 deaths in 2019, and 489 deaths in 2018.

The increase in pedestrian traffic deaths mirrors an overall rise in traffic deaths since the pandemic’s start. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)5 reports 20,160 overall traffic deaths in the first half of 2021, representing an 18.4% increase from 2020.

Although it may be tempting to attribute the deaths to rebounding overall travel, statistics show an increase in fatalities per mile traveled. In the first half of 2021, there were 1.34 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled compared to 1.28 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in the first half of 2020.

What Is To Blame for the Rise in Pedestrian Traffic Deaths Since the Pandemic?

woman driving a car with safety features

With a noticeable increase in pedestrian traffic deaths since the pandemic, it’s only natural to surmise the cause of the rise in fatalities. There may be several factors in play:

Faster and Heavier Vehicles

Although driving may have decreased during the pandemic, the vehicles we are driving have gotten bigger and heavier. USA Today6 shared Kelly Blue Book data of 25 different vans, trucks, and SUVs on the market, all weighing 5,500 pounds or more. The heavier the vehicle, the more likely it is to cause severe injuries in the event of a crash.

Overconfidence Due to Safety Features

The Week7 says that the safer motor vehicles become for their occupants, the faster and more recklessly drivers may be comfortable operating them. When drivers feel emboldened by having a myriad of safety features, they may drive more recklessly with less regard for pedestrian safety. For pedestrians simply crossing the street, this trend may be tragic.

Social and Behavioral Changes

Changes in driving behavior during the pandemic may be connected to altered norms, including increased anxiety levels, social disengagement, and pandemic drinking rates. The New York Times² pointed to rising anxiety in society and increased alcohol consumption as possible contributors to traffic accidents and pedestrian deaths.

Avoiding Interaction

In addition, law enforcement may have cut back on traffic law enforcement to minimize face-to-face contact with the public, especially at a time when drivers may be nervous about interacting with others because of the pandemic.

Experienced Law Firm for Pedestrian Accident Cases

When pedestrian-car deaths, it’s devastating for the entire family. Regardless of the broader social implications, each wrongful death represents a valuable life lost. However, the victim’s family may file a claim to bring the responsible person to justice through a wrongful death lawsuit.

Family members can take legal action to recover compensation they need and deserve after the loss of a loved one, including medical bills, pain and suffering, and funeral expenses.

Our personal injury attorneys can help if you or a loved one has been hurt in an accident involving a pedestrian crash. In addition, our Elite Litigation Group handles complex wrongful death litigation. We are here to help victims and their families whose lives have been changed by an accident bring a successful wrongful death case. Contact us today to get started.

injury attorney reviewing case evidence


1Gross, A. (15 July 2021). Pandemic Pause: Americans Cut Driving Nearly In Half In Early Stage of COVID Crisis. AAA Newsroom. Retrieved 28 February 2022.
2Malcolm, Adria. (14 February 2022). Pedestrian Deaths Spike in U.S. as Reckless Driving Surges. The New York Times. Retrieved 28 February 2022.
3Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT). Colorado Fatalities by Person Type (2002-2022). Retrieved 28 February 2022.
4Kroman, David. (1 January 2022). 2021 was the deadliest on Washington roads in 15 years, puzzling experts. The Seattle Times. Retrieved 28 February 2022.
5National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). (28 October 2021). USDOT Releases New Data Showing That Road Fatalities Spiked in First Half of 2021. Retrieved 28 February 2022.
6Young, A. (14 October 2019). The heaviest cars on the market: Weighing over 4 tons, this Ford truck leads the way. USA Today. Retrieved 28 February 2022.
7Kennedy, B. (14 February 2022). What’s to blame for a COVID-era increase in pedestrian deaths? The Week. Retrieved 28 February 2022.

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