Aside from a blip during the first year of the pandemic, Massachusetts pedestrian fatalities have been relatively stable since 2015–until recently. According to a recent report from WalkBoston, pedestrian deaths took a significant leap in 2022. Specifically, pedestrian deaths in the state increased by more than 30% year over year, and exceeded any other year in the past two decades by at least 20%.
Pedestrian deaths made up 101 of the 439 traffic deaths in Massachusetts, or more than 23%.
Pedestrian Fatality High Risk Groups
Anyone who walks in areas where cars and other motor vehicles are present is at some risk of being hit by a car. That includes people crossing the street, people walking along the side of a highway, and even those walking across a parking lot or standing on a sidewalk at an intersection. However, not all pedestrians are at the same risk of being killed in traffic.
Some variables that increase the risk of traffic fatality include:
- Being older. The WalkBoston report found that 38.6% of those hit by cars and killed were over the age of 65. The rate is significantly disproportionate to the 17% of Massachusetts residents who fall into that age group.
- Living in low income areas. More than 70% of pedestrian fatalities in 2022 occurred in areas that had been identified as having a high percentage of low income residents.
- Walking at night. More than 60% of Massachusetts pedestrian fatalities and 76% of pedestrian fatalities across the United States occurred when it was dark outside.
Why are Pedestrian Accidents and Deaths Increasing?
The Governor’s Highway Safety Association (GHSA) says that a combination of factors have contributed to the increase in pedestrian fatalities. These include:
- Bad driving habits, such as excessive speeding, that developed during the pandemic when the roads were clearer have not resolved.
- There are an increasing number of larger, heavier vehicles such as SUV’s on the road – these vehicles are more likely to kill a pedestrian than smaller vehicles.
- Road design in many areas favors speed and traffic flow over pedestrian safety.
- A lack of sidewalks, cross walks, appropriate traffic signals, and lighting in areas pedestrians may be traveling.
The last two factors are a significant part of the reason that pedestrians in lower-income areas are at greater risk of being killed in traffic.
Many states, including Massachusetts, are taking steps to diminish the risk to pedestrians. In fact, the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Act created specific requirements for states in which “vulnerable road users” made up more than fifteen percent of annual crash fatalities. “Vulnerable road users” means non-motorists such as pedestrians and bicyclists. The same legislation mandated action from states where serious injuries and deaths to older drivers and pedestrians were increasing.
Protecting Against Pedestrian Injury and Death
Of course, neither drivers nor pedestrians can afford to wait for corrective actions such as the installation of new traffic signal devices, better lighting, and even improved road design. While we all hope that those improvements will occur promptly and have a significant impact on the number of pedestrian injuries and deaths, there are measures we can all take right now to reduce those numbers.
For example, pedestrians should:
- Always be alert when walking, and avoid distractions like texting or wearing headphones that will muffle the sound of car horns and approaching traffic.
- Avoid walking in public areas when intoxicated.
- If you must walk at night, wear light colored or reflective clothing and try to stick to well lighted areas.
- Use marked crosswalks and cross with traffic signals whenever possible.
To protect pedestrians and the road, drivers should:
- Respect the speed limit and adjust for weather conditions and visibility- – the likelihood that a pedestrian will be killed when hit by a car is significantly higher if that car is traveling at a higher rate of speed.
- Reduce speed when pedestrians are walking in the area to allow sufficient time to slow or stop, or take evasive action if a pedestrian steps into the roadway.
- Avoid driving while under the influence of alcohol, while fatigued, or under any other circumstances that might impair your perception and response time.
- Avoid distractions while driving, since looking away from the road for just a few seconds can be fatal.
Help for Injured Pedestrians
Attorney Kevin P. Broderick has been helping people injured in motor vehicle accidents, including pedestrians and bicyclists, recover fair compensation for decades. He knows that it is critical for you to have reliable information and guidance as soon as possible after being hit by a car or otherwise injured in traffic.
If you’ve suffered a traffic related injury in Massachusetts or New Hampshire, you can schedule a free consultation right now. Just call (978) 459-3085 or fill out the contact form on this site to get started.
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