A tragic example of the growing concern surrounding pedestrian deaths is the story of Alyssa Milligan. Recently moved to Tennessee, the 23-year-old was integrating well into the Nashville cycling community. However, this connection was cut short when she was hit by a pickup truck while cycling.
Alarmingly, pedestrian deaths and those of cyclists in the U.S. have surged significantly. While vehicles might be getting safer for those inside, the number of fatalities concerning those outside the vehicle, like pedestrians and cyclists, has shot up by over 60% between 2011 and 2022.
One key factor contributing to the surge in pedestrian deaths is the rise in sales of SUVs, pickup trucks, and vans. In 2022 alone, these vehicles made up 78% of all new vehicle sales. Many of these larger vehicles, due to their design, can pose significant visibility problems, leading to devastating accidents. An IIHS study revealed SUVs and pickups to be the most involved in left-turn crashes with pedestrians, suggesting these vehicles might have issues seeing pedestrians.
This increased prominence of larger vehicles with blind spots is concerning. For instance, the app VIEW, created in collaboration with the Volpe Center, highlights how as many as eight elementary school children could stand in front of a 2016 Chevrolet Silverado without being seen by the driver.
However, there's more to pedestrian deaths than just vehicle design. While fatal crashes were on the decline, hitting a low in 2011, they have since reversed, showing a 43% increase in 2022. Speeding, drunk driving, and a decline in seatbelt use have all played a part. Most notably, pedestrian and cyclist deaths alone surged by 64% since 2011, marking 8,413 estimated deaths in 2022.
While NHTSA has proposed new pedestrian crash avoidance tests, their voluntary nature is a concern for many, including advocates like Jessica Hart, whose 5-year-old was tragically killed by a Ford Transit van in 2021. Her petition demanding the inclusion of pedestrian risks in the NHTSA’s 5-star rating system has garnered more than 28,000 signatures.
Advancements like automatic emergency braking, better night-vision cameras, and other technologies offer hope. However, safety experts agree that a holistic solution is needed—one that encompasses infrastructure changes, speed limit enforcement, and revisions in vehicle design.
Pedestrian deaths, like Alyssa Milligan's and young Allie's, are a grim reminder of the urgency of the situation. As Jessica Hart, now an advocate with Families for Safe Streets, puts it, changes need to happen so that no more lives are lost in such violent, traumatic circumstances.
If you or a loved one has been affected by a similar tragedy, our firm is here to help and guide you through the process. Contact our firm today to to speak to a pedestrian injury attorney discuss your options and find a way forward.