The number of pedestrian fatalities keeps growing, and here’s why

Andrey Kamenov

Andrey Kamenov, Ph.D. Probability and Statistics

The recently-released 2016 data on motor vehicle crashes from the NHTSA shows a grim fact: The number of pedestrian fatalities has reached an all-time high. It’s certainly worth it to take a look at possible reasons behind the growth in pedestrian fatalities — the FARS database contains rather detailed information about each crash.

First of all, a quick glance at the numbers reveals that the increase in fatalities can be narrowed down mostly to crashes that happened at night. In fact, daytime fatalities are roughly in line with the early 2000s numbers.

This fact definitely calls for improvement in safety measures on both sides. Improving pedestrian visibility by encouraging the use of reflecting clothing at night is one possible step.

Another approach would be to mandate the use of vehicle-based safety technologies like automated braking since these, of course, are less affected by a lack of proper lighting than drivers. Of course, the recent Uber-related incident shows how important is to understand the limitations of these technologies.

Interestingly, the state-by-state data shows a geographic pattern in pedestrian fatalities. The percentage of fatal crashes that occurred at night is generally higher in southern states. For example, the two highest figures (over 80 percent) were observed in New Mexico and South Carolina.

Another important factor in fatality statistics is alcohol. We all know to avoid drinking and driving at all costs, but it's also important to remember that drinking puts you in danger even if you walk home. In fact, a positive blood alcohol content was found in more than half of all fatal cases that occurred at night (excluding those not tested or with unknown test results).

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About Andrey Kamenov

Andrey Kamenov

Andrey Kamenov, Ph.D. Probability and Statistics

Andrey Kamenov is a data scientist working for Advameg Inc. His background includes teaching statistics, stochastic processes and financial mathematics in Moscow State University and working for a hedge fund. His academic interests range from statistical data analysis to optimal stopping theory. Andrey also enjoys his hobbies of photography, reading and powerlifting.

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