Pedestrian Fatalities are Increasing in Ohio and Around the Country

Doug Mann

Table of Contents
  1. Why are Pedestrian Deaths Increasing? 
  2. How Dangerous is Walking in Ohio? 
  3. Who is Responsible for Pedestrian Injuries and Fatalities? 
  4. Talk to an Ohio Pedestrian Accident Attorney

In 2021, Ohio pedestrian fatalities were 17% higher than they were in 2020. 

It would be nice to think that was because driving was down in 2020, and maybe fewer pedestrians were killed because there were fewer cars on the road. Unfortunately, only half of that is true. While miles driven declined significantly in 2020, pedestrian fatalities did not.

That upward trend held true across most of the country–in May, the Governors’ Highway Safety Association (GHSA) announced that pedestrian fatalities hit a 40-year high in 2021. An estimated 7,485 pedestrians were killed in traffic. That’s a 12% increase over 2020, and a 55% increase across 10 years.

Why are Pedestrian Deaths Increasing? 

A variety of factors contribute to the steady rise in pedestrian fatalities in Ohio and throughout most of the country. Some of these include:

  • An increase in the number of vehicle miles traveled (VMT) each year–though 2020 was an exception, 12-month VMT increased by 169% between July of 1971 and July of 2021. And, that upward trend is continuing. Between July of 2021 and July of 2022, the number jumped from 3.1 million miles to 3.26 million miles. This increase doesn’t tell the whole story, though: pedestrian deaths per VMT have also increased.
  • An increase in SUVs on the road–in 2015, SUVs outsold sedans in the U.S. for the first time. Just four years later, they were outselling cars at a rate of two to one. Unfortunately, in many settings, these larger and heavier vehicles present a greater threat to pedestrians. 
  • An increase in speeding–during the pandemic, near-empty roads tempted many drivers to increase their speeds. But, data suggests that they didn’t slow down as traffic returned to normal. Higher speeds increase the risk to pedestrians in two ways. A driver traveling at a higher speed is less likely to be able to stop in time if a pedestrian steps into the road or the driver is distracted and slow to notice the pedestrian. And, when a pedestrian is hit, a car traveling at a higher speed is more likely to seriously injure or kill a pedestrian. 

Who is at Greatest Risk of Becoming a Pedestrian Fatality? 

Obviously, people of any age, race, sex, economic class, religion, and other demographic can be hit by a car and killed. But, some are at greater risk than others. 

One variable that factors heavily in the risk of being hit and killed by a car is the median income in the area where you live. People in lower-income neighborhoods are at greater risk for a couple of reasons. One is that studies have shown that people at lower socio-economic levels are more likely to walk than those in middle-income brackets. 

That may be partly due to direct economic factors: a lower income person is less likely to own a vehicle, and perhaps more reluctant (or unable) to spend money on public transportation, cabs, Ubers and other modes of transportation. Lower-income people are also more likely to walk when they live in denser areas, where there are stores and other destinations within walking distance. In suburban areas, stores, restaurants, libraries and similar destinations are more likely to be remote from neighborhoods. 

But, there’s a darker reason low-income people are at greater risk of being hit by cars. The Smart Growth America report referenced above reveals that walking in lower-income neighborhoods is generally more dangerous because those neighborhoods are less likely to have sidewalks, marked crosswalks, and streets designed for pedestrian safety. 

  • People in areas with median incomes of $43,000 or less are more than three times as likely to be the victim of a fatal pedestrian accident as those in areas with median incomes of $93,000 or more
  • Black Americans are about twice as likely as white Americans to be hit by cars and killed
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How Dangerous is Walking in Ohio? 

In general, Ohio has a lower-than-average risk for pedestrians. The states with the highest pedestrian death rates and the most dangerous metros for pedestrians are all in the southern part of the United States. For the past several years, the pedestrian fatality rate per 100,000 residents in Ohio has been lower than the national rate. Still, Ohio cities claimed several spots on Smart Growth America’s list of the 101 most dangerous metros for walking. These include: 

  • The Dayton-Kettering metro area (# 65)
  • Toledo (# 65)
  • Columbus (# 71)
  • The greater Cincinnati area, including surrounding counties in Kentucky and Indiana (# 82)
  • The Cleveland-Elyria metro area (# 88)
  • Akron (# 93)

Still, each of these metros has a pedestrian fatality rate lower than the national average. 

Who is Responsible for Pedestrian Injuries and Fatalities? 

Some of the most common causes of pedestrian injuries and fatalities involve driver negligence. For example, in 2020: 

  • 8.62% of pedestrian fatality reports across the country listed speeding as a causal factor–-a significant increase over the previous year
  • 16.1% of pedestrian fatalities involved a driver with a blood alcohol level of .08 or greater

Distracted driving also plays a significant role in the risk to pedestrians. 

If the driver hits a pedestrian because they are operating unsafely–whether that means driving while fatigued, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, speeding, texting while driving, or engaging in some other negligent behavior–they may be legally responsible for the injury or death. Depending on the circumstances, this may result in criminal charges. The injured pedestrian or surviving family members may also be entitled to compensation.

What if the Pedestrian Was Partly Responsible? 

Pedestrians often play a role in their own injuries. For example, many people don’t realize that texting while walking or walking along the road with headphones that block outside noises can be dangerous, in much the same way that distracted driving is. And, pedestrians killed in traffic are even more likely to be impaired by alcohol than the drivers who hit them. In 2020, more than 31% of pedestrians aged 16 and older who were killed by motor vehicles were legally intoxicated. 

Often, there’s more than one contributing factor in a pedestrian accident. That means that a pedestrian who was partly responsible for their own injury may still be entitled to partial compensation. 

Talk to an Ohio Pedestrian Accident Attorney

If you were hit by a car as a pedestrian or you have lost a loved one to a pedestrian accident, the best source of information about your rights and options is a consultation with an experienced motor vehicle accident attorney. The lawyers at Dyer, Garofalo, Mann & Schultz have decades of experience helping Ohio injury victims and surviving family members secure the compensation they deserve. 

You can schedule a free consultation right now by calling 937-222-2222 or filling out the contact form on this page. 

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