Nonprofit projects jump in pedestrian deaths in first half of 2020 despite decreased driving
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A nonprofit report projected that the number of pedestrian deaths increased during the first half of 2020 despite a drop-off in driving in the early months of the coronavirus pandemic. 

The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) projected in its March report that the first half of last year saw 2,957 pedestrians killed in motor vehicle crashes, amounting to six more than counted during the first half of 2019. 

The analysis, which was based on data from state highway safety offices, comes as the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) estimates that the number of miles driven decreased by 16.5 percent during the first half of 2020 when compared to the first half of 2019.

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The pedestrian fatality rate per miles driven rose 20 percent in the first six months of 2020 to 2.2 deaths per billion vehicle miles driven. In 2019, the ratio was 1.8 deaths per billion miles driven.

“It is, therefore, surprising and disappointing that preliminary data from all 50 states and D.C. indicate no decline in the number of pedestrian fatalities for the first six months of 2020 despite reductions in motor vehicle travel associated with the COVID-19 pandemic,” the report said.

The analysis found that 27 states documented increases in pedestrian fatalities, while 20 states and Washington, D.C., saw reductions and three saw no change. Seven of the states accounted for 54 percent of all pedestrian deaths: Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, New York, North Carolina and Texas. 

Data for all of 2020 is expected to be released later this year. The analysis does not include any details on the deaths, but GHSA Executive Director Jonathan Adkins told The Wall Street Journal that anecdotal evidence hints that speeding contributed. 

“Too many drivers are treating roadways like speedways,” he said.

Pedestrian fatalities decreased from 8,096 in 1979 to 4,109 in 2009, the Journal reported, citing federal data, before that number has risen in recent years. In 2019, 6,301 pedestrian deaths were recorded.