The number of pedestrians kills on American roads shot up 11 percent in 2016, the largest increase in the 40 years the measure has been tracked.
Nearly 6,000 American pedestrians died in traffic incidents last year, according to a new report from the Governors Highway Safety Association. The increase represents the second consecutive year of significant growth in the number of such deaths, which now account for 15 percent of all motor vehicle-related deaths.
The report’s authors attributed the increase to multiple factors, including a strong economy and low gas prices, which have put more cars on the road. At the same time, more Americans are traveling by foot. A 2015 report from the Government Accountability Office found that about a million more people have begun walking or biking to work in the past decade. Smartphones play a role as well, since both walkers and drivers are more likely to be distracted by the screens in their hands.
“Everyone walks and we want to encourage that, but at the same time, we want to make sure that we all get to our destinations safely,” GHSA Executive Director Jonathan Adkins said in a statement. “Unfortunately, this latest data shows that the U.S. is not meeting the mark on keeping pedestrians safe on our roadways.”
Delaware was the least safe state for pedestrians, with 3.38 pedestrian deaths per 100,000 people in 2015, followed by Florida and South Carolina. Walkers were safest in Iowa, where there were just 0.48 pedestrian deaths per 100,000.
The national average was 1.75 deaths per 100,000 people.