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Why are pedestrian deaths at a 30 year high?

For the past few years, a disturbing trend has spread across the United States. That is, more pedestrians than ever are dying in traffic accidents. In fact, according to a Governors Highway Safety Association Report in 2018, more pedestrians died in automobile accidents that year than any of the 30 years prior.  

While the general lack of pedestrian infrastructure in the United States is a big problem and contributes to pedestrian deaths, this is not the main cause behind the growth in accidents. According to NPR, the rise of smartphone technology as well as the popularity of sport utility vehicles (SUVs) is to blame. 

Smartphone technology

Recent estimates suggest that pedestrians and drivers both are using cell phone data at a rate that is a whopping 4,000% higher than in 2008. Essentially, at any given time there are both pedestrians and drivers who are paying attention to their smartphones and not paying attention to the traffic surrounding them. This is a major contributor to several pedestrian-passenger vehicle accidents.  

The rise of SUVs

SUVs have been more popular in the United States among consumers than traditional passenger vehicles since 2013. Given that many of the cars in the US on the road are at least 10 years old, this is a long enough time to mean that many cars on the road in 2021 are SUVs.  

SUVs are bigger and heavier than traditional passenger vehicles. This means that in a collision between an SUV and a pedestrian, the pedestrian is more likely to sustain an injury as compared to a collision between a traditional passenger vehicle and a pedestrian.