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Risk Factors for Pedestrian Fatalities: How Can Pedestrian Safety be Increased?

March 22nd 2021

Pedestrian fatalities in traffic collisions are on the rise.1 In 2018, 6,283 pedestrian deaths occurred in the United States, the largest number since 1990.1 In Canada, over 10 000 pedestrians are seriously injured each year, with over 1,800 annual deaths.2

Risk factors for Pedestrian Fatalities

Certain factors may increase the chances of a pedestrian fatality. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the most common risk factors for a pedestrian fatality are as follows:

Type of Area: 80% of pedestrian fatalities take place in urban areas.3

Time of day: 75% of pedestrian fatalities take place when it is dark.3

Time of week: More pedestrian fatalities take place on weekends, than do during the week.3

Age: Pedestrians aged 50-54 and 55-59 made up the age groups most likely to be killed in a pedestrian accident. The average age of a deceased pedestrian was 47.3 Moreover, the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators (CCMTA) identified that the risk of fatal injury is greater for people over the age of 70; they are less likely to see or hear an approaching vehicle, and more likely to sustain serious injuries.4

Gender: Approximately 70% of pedestrians killed in traffic crashes were male. The male pedestrian fatality rate per 100, 000 people was found to be double that of the female pedestrian fatality rate.3

Distracted/Impaired Driving and Distracted/Impaired Walking: Both pedestrian and driver alcohol consumption can result in a pedestrian fatality and was listed as a factor in 47% of cases.3 The usage of electronic devices either while driving or walking can also cause a distraction and an unawareness of one’s surrounding, leading to a collision.4

Vehicle Type and Impact Point: 91% of pedestrians who died in traffic collisions died in accidents involving a single vehicle. Most of the pedestrians were struck with the front of the vehicles. Passenger cars and light trucks were more likely to be involved in a frontal impact collision, as opposed to heavy trucks or buses.3

How to Increase Pedestrian Safety?

NHTSA and the CCMTA recommend the following measures to increase the safety of pedestrians and to decrease the likelihood of a pedestrian fatality:

What Pedestrians can do:

  • Avoid wearing dark clothing at nighttime; instead wearing retroreflective clothing to increase the chances of being seen in the dark, when many accidents happen.4
  • Avoid consuming alcohol prior to walking.3
  • Be aware of traffic around them. The CCMTA encourages educational campaigns to teach pedestrians how to be more aware of their surroundings.4
  • Avoid using electronic devices whilst crossing the road.4
  • Walk on a sidewalk whenever one is available. If no sidewalk is available, then pedestrians should walk on the shoulder, facing traffic.3
  • Cross the street at crosswalks and/or intersections, whenever possible.3

What Drivers can do:

  • Avoid using electronic devices whilst driving.4
  • Avoid consuming alcohol whilst driving.4
  • Always be on the lookout for pedestrians.3
  • Drive at the speed limit.3
  • Exercise extra caution in school zones.3

Suggested Policy Changes:

  • Educating drivers and pedestrians about pedestrian vulnerability and visibility.4
  • Identifying urban areas with high levels of alcohol/drug related collisions and researching measures to reduce number of crashes.4
  • Increasing the time allowed for crossing the street at signalized intersections to give older people more time to cross the street.4
  • Installing signs at intersections warning drivers to watch for pedestrians.4

LISKE and Pedestrian Safety

Accident Reconstruction is a fundamental building block in determining both how and why an accident happened. LISKE Accident and Injury Experts conduct a systematic and methodical step-by-step forensic investigation, identification, interpretation, validation, rectification, and analysis of available evidence; applying the accepted practices, principles, and laws of science and engineering to determine the reconstructed sequence of events. LISKE’s unique team approach allows our Human Factors and Injury Biomechanics experts to provide additional analysis on both accident and injury causation. This multi-faceted approach will help to determine the likely cause of a motor vehicle/pedestrian collision.


[1] NHTSA (n.d). “Pedestrian Safety”. NHTSA. Retrieved from: https://www.nhtsa.gov/road-safety/pedestrian-safety

[2]CCMTA (2016). “Towards Zero - The safest roads in the world”. CCMTA. Retrieved from:  http://roadsafetystrategy.ca/en/

[3] NHTSA (March 2019) “Traffic Safety Facts: 2017 Data”. NHTSA. Retrieved from: https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/812681

[4] CCMTA (August 2013). “Countermeasures to improve Pedestrian Safety in Canada.” Retrieved from: http://ccmta.ca/images/publications/pdf/CCMTA_Pedestrian_Report_Eng_FINAL.pdf