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20% of People Killed in Traffic in Massachusetts in 2023 Were Pedestrians

pedestrian accident lawyer

In 2023, 346 people died in motor vehicle accidents in Massachusetts. That number includes 69 pedestrians. Though pedestrian fatalities decreased somewhat compared with 2022, the longer-term trend has been more stable. The average number of pedestrian fatalities per year across the most recent 22-year period was 70.2. In other words, despite increasing awareness of the risks to “vulnerable road users” and initiatives to improve safety, Massachusetts isn’t seeing much improvement. At least 40 different cities and towns across the state had at least one pedestrian fatality last year.

In addition, many pedestrians are injured by motor vehicles each year. Boston reported six pedestrian fatalities in 2023, with an additional 587 injuries.

Where Do Pedestrian Accidents Happen?

Unsurprisingly, most pedestrian fatalities occur in cities and towns, not on state highways or interstates. Although high-speed roads are more dangerous for pedestrians, there simply isn’t nearly as much pedestrian travel on highways and interstates.

In 2023, more than half of pedestrian fatalities happened in areas designated as “environmental justice block groups.” When pedestrians who were seriously injured are added to the mix, 50% of crashes happened in these groups. These groups include neighborhoods with low median incomes, significant minority populations, and significant non-English-speaking populations. It might not be immediately obvious why these factors would influence the rate of pedestrian crashes. But, there are good reasons.

First, in lower income areas, people are more likely to rely on foot travel for transportation to work, grocery stores, and other regular trips. These neighborhoods are also often more crowded and closer to high-speed, high-traffic roads.

Other Variables Also Impact Pedestrian Fatality Risk

Certain populations are also at greater risk of being killed in traffic, regardless of location. In particular, older people are disproportionately at risk. In 2023, 31.9% of pedestrian fatalities in Massachusetts involved pedestrians aged 65 or older. More than half of those killed while walking were 50 and older.  The main reason for this higher risk is that older people are often less able to recover from a trauma such as being hit by a car. One older study found that older Americans were at least twice as likely as younger adults to die after being hit by a motor vehicle.

The time of day also plays a role. In 2023, more than 63% of Massachusetts pedestrian fatalities happened between sunset and sunrise. When you add dawn and dusk, that rises to 69%. Lower visibility at night is one explanation for the higher rate of pedestrian fatalities after dark. But, it may not be the only one. For example, 25% of pedestrians hospitalized after being hit by cars on Massachusetts roads in 2023 were under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Speed also plays an important role. It’s long been recognized that a pedestrian hit by a car traveling at a higher speed is more likely to be seriously injured or killed, and that both driver and passenger have less opportunity to avoid the accident when a car is moving faster. In this year’s report, WalkMassachusetts introduces another variable, described as the cone of vision. The “cone” refers to the area the driver sees, which is wider at lower speeds and narrows to the center of the roadway at higher speeds.

 

Finally, the increasing presence of larger, heavier passenger vehicles like SUVs has increased the risk, both due to greater difficulty  seeing pedestrians on the road and the greater impact of being hit by a higher, much heavier vehicle.

What’s Next for Pedestrian Safety?

Organizations like WalkMassachusetts, the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) and others have long invested in research and recommendations for safety improvements for pedestrians. In addition, the 2021 federal infrastructure bill requires states like Massachusetts, where more than 15% of traffic fatalities are “vulnerable road users,” to devote at least 15% of Highway Safety Improvement Funds to making roads safer for bicyclists, pedestrians, and others in that category.

In addition, WalkMassachusetts is calling on everyone to get involved this year, by leading “walk audits” in places you’re concerned about in and around your neighborhood.

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To schedule a free consultation with attorney Kevin P. Broderick, just call 978-459-3085 right now. Kevin has been helping people who were injured in Massachusetts and New Hampshire for decades, and can provide the knowledge, guidance, and determination you need.

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