US Pedestrian, Bicyclist Deaths Rise in 2018: Report

June 18, 2019 Updated: June 18, 2019

WASHINGTON—U.S. pedestrian and bicyclist deaths rose in 2018, while overall traffic deaths fell 1 percent in 2018 to 36,750, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said in a preliminary report Monday.

The auto safety agency said it didn’t know the cause of the overall decline, but has said a dramatic increase in traffic deaths in 2016 was the result of more people killed on foot, bicycle, or motorcycle.

In 2018, the agency said pedestrian deaths were projected to rise 4 percent and bicyclist deaths by 10 percent. The overall traffic fatality rate was projected to drop to 1.14 deaths per 100 million miles traveled, as deaths fell to 36,750, the lowest rate since 2014. Pedestrian deaths accounted for 16 percent of all U.S traffic deaths in 2017, up from 12 percent in 2009.

The agency has been investigating the role of distracted drivers in overall U.S. traffic death figures, but has found challenges in getting an accurate picture of all distracted crashes because of the unwillingness of individuals to acknowledge they were distracted.

In 2017, 599 pedestrians, bicyclists, and others outside vehicles were killed in distraction-affected crashes, NHTSA said.

NHTSA counts fatalities as any death resulting from a crash within 30 days of the incident; it takes a lengthy review of several data sources before final numbers are published.

The increases in deaths among pedestrians and bicyclists come after a 1.7 percent decline in pedestrian deaths in 2017 to 5,977 and an 8 percent decline in bicyclist deaths to 783.

The issue remains a big concern in large U.S. cities.

In New York, pedestrian deaths accounted for 46 percent of the city’s 207 traffic deaths in 2017, while 60 percent of the 15 traffic deaths in San Francisco were pedestrians.

Overall, traffic deaths in urban areas are up 17 percent since 2008. They have fallen by 18 percent in rural areas.

Deaths of people inside vehicles, which, in 1996, accounted for an all-time high of 80 percent of all traffic deaths, has fallen to 67 percent in 2017. The 33 percent figure for people outside vehicles includes pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists.

The fatality rate and number of deaths are down dramatically from 2007, when 41,259 people were killed and 1.36 deaths per 100 million miles were recorded.

By David Shepardson