Traffic accidents in California and around the country claimed the lives of approximately 7,500 pedestrians in 2022 according to a report released on June 23 by the Governors Highway Safety Association. If the road safety advocacy group’s projection proves to be correct, it would make 2022 the most dangerous year for American pedestrians since 1981. Pedestrian deaths in the United States have been climbing since 2010 and have surged by 18% since 2019.
Dangerous driving and SUVs
Experts believe the alarming rise in fatal auto-pedestrian accidents is linked to dangerous habits that motorists picked up in 2020 when travel restrictions and stay-at-home orders emptied the roads of traffic. They also place part of the blame on the popularity of large pickup trucks and SUVs that provide poor visibility and are more likely to seriously injure or kill pedestrians when they strike them. Suggestions for reducing pedestrian fatalities include lowering speed limits, placing red light and speed cameras near accident hotspots and installing traffic calming measures like pedestrian islands and speed bumps.
Pedestrian deaths in California
California was one of 21 states that reported reduced pedestrian fatalities in 2022. In 2021, 506 pedestrians were killed in California after being struck by motor vehicles. The official figure is expected to fall by 2 to 504 in 2022. According to the GHSA report, pedestrian fatalities in 2022 fell by almost 67% in South Dakota and by more than 25% in Iowa, Kansas and Alaska, but they rose by more than 50% in Virginia, Utah, Connecticut, Oregon, Delaware, New Hampshire and Nebraska.
Law enforcement is the answer
Reengineering roads and installing traffic calming measures could save pedestrian lives, but these projects take years to complete. If the surge in pedestrian fatalities is being caused by an increase in reckless and negligent driving, more rigorous law enforcement could address the problem immediately. Motorists who exceed the posted speed limit or use electronic devices while driving should be pulled over and ticketed, and the fines they pay should be increased to reflect the impact their behavior is having on society.