Last year, 228 pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes in North Carolina, up 13.4% from 2017, according to the NCDMV. Since 2009, the number of pedestrians killed each year in NC has risen by 54%, more than five times the rate of population growth in the state during that time.
This increase seems to be trending at the national level as well.
The Governors Highway Safety Association estimated the 2018 total based on the first half of the year and came up with 6,227 pedestrian deaths nationwide, which would be the highest number in 28 years.
The reasons for the increase are most likely linked to multiple factors, including an increase in both distracted drivers and distracted walkers and a growing prevalence of larger vehicles (like SUVs) that make a fatal crash more likely, coupled with the push to end drinking and driving – leading more drinkers to walk rather than get behind the wheel.
Alcohol use by pedestrians is suspected in about 30% of fatal pedestrian crashes. Of the 228 pedestrians killed last year in NC, 78% occurred at night – between 7 p.m. and 2 a.m.
Not surprisingly, most pedestrian deaths occurred in urban counties, where more people are likely to be out on foot. But one county, Mecklenburg, had by far the highest number, with 37, (last year or in 2018) more than twice as many as in Wake County, with 16.
Among the other findings from the DMV report:
- Including pedestrians, 1,442 people died in motor vehicle collisions in 2018, up 3.3 percent over the year before, but almost the same number as in 2016.
- The number of motorcyclists killed in crashes spiked nearly 21 percent in 2018, to 169 statewide. That number fluctuates from year to year, with a less defined pattern than with pedestrians. The same number of motorcyclists died in 2015 and in 2010.
- Eighteen bicyclists were killed on the road last year. That’s down from 30 the year before but about average for the last decade or so.
- About 28.5 percent of fatalities were the result of crashes that involved alcohol, which matches the five-year average. In cases where use of seat belts was recorded, 41 percent of drivers and passengers who died in crashes last year were not wearing one.
Safety tips for pedestrians:
- ALWAYS be visible to motorists at all times and make eye-contact with them when possible.
- Wear lightly colored or reflective clothing at night.
- Stay in well-lit areas, especially when crossing the street.
- Make eye contact with drivers in stopped vehicles to ensure they see you before you cross in front of them.
- Avoid distractions and stay alert. Your eyes and ears are your best tools for keeping safe.
- Put down your phone and keep your eyes ahead of you.
- Don’t wear headphones so you can listen for oncoming vehicles.
- Follow the rules of the road.
- Follow all signs and traffic signals. Be aware of the signals the drivers around you are getting as well so you can properly anticipate what they will do.
- Never assume a driver will give you the right of way (even when it is legally yours).
- Walk in safe places.
- Use crosswalks when crossing the street. If a crosswalk is unavailable, find the most well-lit spot on the road to cross and wait for a long gap in traffic.
- Stay on sidewalks whenever possible. If there is not a sidewalk, walk on the far side of the road facing traffic to increase visibility to other drivers.
- Avoid alcohol consumption.
- Almost half of all traffic crashes resulting in pedestrian casualties involve alcohol consumption – and 34% of that total was on the part of the pedestrian. Alcohol impairs your decision-making skills, reflexes and other abilities.
Safety tips for motorists:
- Be alert.
- Look out for pedestrians at all times. Safety is a two-way street. NEVER drive distracted or look at your electronic devices while driving. Looking down for just one glance could make the difference between seeing a pedestrian or not.
- Follow the posted speed limits at all times – especially in areas of heavy foot traffic and in school zones or neighborhoods.
- Always use your lights and signals properly.
- Be mindful of driveways – especially when in reverse.