Whether you walk for leisure or as a healthy alternative to a vehicle for getting from point A to point B, you likely expect that it is safer than getting behind the wheel. Unfortunately, recent trends indicate otherwise.

In 2018, over 6,000 U.S. pedestrians died in fatal traffic accidents. This is the highest number of pedestrian deaths in nearly 30 years

The statistic is according to findings from a Governors Highway Safety Association report, which showed most of these deaths are happening in big cities. However, even smaller communities are vulnerable. In Macon, Ga., one in every 8,000 residents died in a pedestrian accident last year. 

A lack of proper infrastructure

While many people would like to blame population growth issues like jaywalking for the increase in pedestrian fatalities, safety officials indicate these actions are not the primary problem.

Tom Ellington, who chairs the Pedestrian Safety Review Board in Macon, said the bigger issue is that transportation infrastructure has, for too long, centered around motor vehicles and not people. His city, for instance, lacks adequate crosswalks; in some areas there are gaps as large as two miles between crosswalks.

The League of American Bicyclists tracks all 50 states based on bicycle safety, and as part of their research they look at states’ infrastructure and funding for bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly travel. While Colorado ranks No. 6 overall, the league notes that more funding could be appropriated toward pedestrians and bicyclists.

Distracted driving cannot be ignored

Others indicate the increase in cell phone distraction among drivers and pedestrians combined with the proliferation in sport utility vehicles (SUVs) on the road are to blame. Pedestrian deaths have jumped 30 percent just in the last 10 years and light truck purchases have outpaced car sales since 2013. More large vehicles on the road combined with fewer alert walkers and drivers can lead to more accidents.

Colorado is currently considering a cell phone ban for all drivers, which recently passed in the state Senate and is now in the House. It will need to make it through the House Judiciary Committee before coming to a full vote.

Hopefully with a larger crackdown on distracted driving and more funding for pedestrian-friendly transportation, Denver can become a large city that reduces pedestrian fatalities.