Legal Review: Pedestrian Fatality Spikes in the U.S. as Reckless Driving Surges

The last two years have made history in the number of fatalities recorded on American roads. The spike in fatalities was noticeable soon after most states went on lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19.

The uptick came as a surprise to experts because the expectation was that the rate of fatalities would slump with fewer cars on the road. As the economy reopened and more cars came back on the road, the rate of deaths on the road seemed to change for the worse, with approximately 32,000 deaths recorded in the first nine months of 2021. That figure is 12 percent higher than the numbers recorded in the same period in 2020.

Pedestrians Death Statistics

While most recorded fatalities involved persons in a vehicle, pedestrian deaths have also shown a drastic increase. According to the Governors Highways and Safety Association, approximately 6,721 pedestrian deaths were recorded in 2020. This number represented a 4.8 percent increase in the previous year’s numbers, at 6,412. The NHTSA is yet to release 2021 data but going by the accidents reported in the first nine months of the year, pedestrian deaths are likely to hit a record high.

While the last two years have been especially bad, the last decade has seen a steady rise in pedestrian fatalities, with data indicating a 45 percent rise in fatal pedestrian accidents between 2010 and 2019. In the ten years, 53,435 pedestrians died after being hit by vehicles.

Anxiety Plays a Role

According to experts, the high incidence of pedestrian fatalities in 2020 and 2021 may have resulted from anxiety, DUI, and the fraying of social norms. “2020 was the darkest year in the recent past; people lost jobs, and the future looked very uncertain,” says car accident attorney Maxwell Paderewski of Lone Star Injury Attorneys .

The uncertainty causes anxiety which presents a high likelihood of taking the driver’s mind from the road resulting in an accident. The fraying of social norms like meeting up with friends and relatives meant that many drivers did not find a way of relieving built-up pressure further increasing anxiety evidenced by a surge in road rage.

Lack of Enforcement

The open roads also created an opportunity for drivers to engage in risky driving behavior like speeding. In 2020 a woman was arrested for killing a pedestrian while speeding along Central Avenue. According to her boyfriend, they were engaging in a game of racing home in separate cars. This is only one case among many where drivers were engaged in reckless behavior on open 2020 roads that had a record number of auto fatalities despite the low volume of cars on the road.

Lack of enforcement in 2020 also contributed to reckless driving at the height of the pandemic, even as police minimized traffic stops for fear of exposure. This lack of enforcement encouraged some drivers to engage in risky driving behavior like Driving Under the Influence (DUI).

The Pedestrian Share the Blame Too

Drivers are not to blame for all pedestrian deaths. Sometimes it is the pedestrian that is at fault. According to data from the NHTSA, three out of four passenger deaths happen at night. Unfortunately, not many pedestrians think about visibility when walking at night, increasing their possibility of being hit by a vehicle.

It is unlawful for a pedestrian to leave the sidewalk and enter the road in a manner that puts a motorist in danger of hitting them. Unfortunately, jaywalking is pretty common, especially with intoxicated pedestrians increasing their chances of getting hit.

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