man on pedestrian crossing road

The number of people struck and killed while walking increased by 35 percent over the last decade, and 2016 and 2017 saw the most pedestrian deaths in motor vehicle accidents since 1990, a new study says.

The report, Dangerous by Design 2019, ranks states and metropolitan areas around the country using a “Pedestrian Danger Index” and South Carolina ranks among the most dangerous states for pedestrian accidents. The Pedestrian Danger Index measures how deadly it is for people to walk based on the number of people struck and killed by drivers while walking. The study factors into account the number of people who live in each state or metro area and the share of people who walk to work.

The study was prepared by the National Complete Streets Coalition, a program of Smart Growth America. The goal is to change fundamentally the way most roads are designed and constructed.

The study suggests that states and metropolitan areas across the southern United States bear a higher share of pedestrian accidents, and older adults, people of color, and people in low-income communities suffer a higher share of the harm.

As personal injury lawyers serving accident victims across South Carolina, the Joye Law Firm is concerned about the excessive number of pedestrian accidents in our state.

South Carolina Rank High in Pedestrian Deaths By State

Based on the study authors’ criteria, South Carolina ranks 10th in the nation for the number of pedestrian deaths, with 1,144 killed in the period from 2008-2017. South Carolina had an average of 2.37 pedestrian fatalities per year per 100,000 residents, significantly higher than the national average of 1.55 pedestrian deaths per 100,000 people.

The Greenville-Anderson-Maudlin, S.C., metro area ranks No. 15 among U.S. metro areas for pedestrian deaths, and all but one metro area with higher rankings are in the South. The Augusta-Richmond County metro area shared by South Carolina and Georgia is No. 20 on the list.

Topping the state list is Florida, with 5,433 pedestrian fatalities in 2008-2017 and an annual average of 2.73 pedestrian fatalities per 100,000 residents. Nationally, there were 49,340 fatalities in the decade studied.

The total number of pedestrian deaths nationwide from 2008-2017 is equivalent to more than 13 people per day, or one person every hour and 46 minutes, the study says. It’s the equivalent of a jumbo jet full of people crashing with no survivors every single month.

The researchers found that the likelihood of being hit by a car and killed increases at age 50, if they are a person of color and/or if they are in a community of low median household incomes.

Pedestrian Deadly Accidents Statistics

Compared to the overall general population, your chance of dying in a pedestrian accident increases:

  • By more than a third after age 50.
  • By almost 100 percent at age 75.
  • By nearly one quarter if you are African American.
  • By more than 100 percent if you are Native American.

Pedestrian deaths are more likely to occur in low-income communities because they are significantly less likely to have sidewalks, marked crosswalks and streets designed to support slower speeds than higher-income communities.

While pedestrian deaths jumped by 35.4 percent from 2008-2017:

  • Vehicle miles traveled increased by 8.1 percent
  • Walking as a share of all trips increased by less than 1 percent
  • Traffic accident deaths among motor vehicle occupants decreased by 6.1 percent.

So why have pedestrian fatalities increased by more than one third over a decade?

“We continue to design streets that are dangerous for all people … because our federal policies, standards and funding mechanisms that have been in place for decades produce dangerous roads that prioritize high speeds for cars over safety for all people,” the study authors say.

In addition, more people are driving SUVs and pickup trucks, which the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has determined to be more dangerous to people walking. SUVs and pickup trucks are two to three times more likely than smaller personal vehicles to cause fatal injuries to pedestrians in the event of a crash.

What’s Needed to Reduce Pedestrian Accidents?

Part of the problem is the thinking behind highway design, the study authors say. The current measurement used by nearly all states rates streets solely based on vehicle delay. When minimizing vehicle delay is the No. 1 goal, this often produces the roads that are the most dangerous by design.

Instead, the National Complete Streets Coalition says state and local governments should:

  • Embrace the flexibility provided by Federal Highway Administration policies adopted in 2016 to design safer streets.
  • Design roads to reduce speeds wherever possible. Speed is a factor in 31 percent of all traffic fatalities, a 2017 National Traffic Safety Board study
  • Refer to pedestrian fatalities as “crashes” and not unavoidable “accidents.” Using “accidents” undermines the urgency of this crisis and undercuts our responsibility to act, the study says.
  • Test bold, creative approaches to safer street design as some cities have.
  • Prioritize projects that will benefit those who suffer disproportionately.
  • Pass actionable Complete Streets policies that lay the groundwork for implementation.

Contact Joye Law Firm After A Pedestrian Accident in South Carolina

We support efforts to make our communities safe and reduce vehicle accidents and pedestrian deaths. Once a pedestrian accident occurs in South Carolina, the Joye Law Firm is ready to help the injured pedestrian and/or their family to understand their legal options to move forward. Our South Carolina personal injury lawyers have offices in Charleston, Columbia, Clinton, and Myrtle Beach, and we accept personal injury cases from across South Carolina.

Our knowledgeable and compassionate attorneys can help you seek a full and fair settlement if you or a loved one has been injured in a pedestrian accident in South Carolina. Start putting your life back together by calling the Joye Law Firm today or using our online form to set up a free initial consultation.

About the Author

Mark Joye is the Head of the Litigation Department at the Joye Law Firm. A Board-Certified Trial Advocate with nearly 30 years of litigation experience, he currently serves on the Board of Governors for the American Association for Justice and is a past president of the South Carolina Association for Justice. In a recent trial, Joye headed a trial team that secured $17 million for a family killed in a tractor-trailer accident.

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