WASHINGTON (AP) — Pedestrian deaths went up last year across the United States, although the numbers were down slightly in North Carolina.
The national average of pedestrian deaths rose by about 10 percent as the economy improved, the price of gas plunged and motorists put more miles behind the wheel than ever before, according to an analysis of preliminary state traffic fatality data.
Pedestrian deaths in North Carolina were down 3 percent. There were 74 pedestrian deaths in the state last year, the 8th highest in the country.
The growing use of cellphones distracting drivers and walkers may also be partially to blame, according to a report released by the Governors Highway Safety Association, which represents governors’ highway safety offices. Warmer weather and shorter winters along with a greater awareness of health benefits may also be encouraging people to walk more.
“This is really sobering news,” said Richard Retting, co-author of the report. “Pedestrian safety is clearly a growing problem across the country.”
The data analyzed were from the first half of 2015. If the trend holds true for the full year, it would be the largest year-to-year increase in pedestrian deaths since 1975 when the current federal system for recording traffic deaths was created.
The report is based on state traffic fatality reports, extrapolated for the full year by researchers at Sam Schwartz Consulting, which specializes in transportation matters.
There were 2,368 pedestrians killed in the first six months of 2015, compared to 2,232 during the same period in 2014 — a six percent increase. Researchers arrived at a 10 percent increase for the entire year by factoring in that fatalities for the first half of the year are typically underreported, and that for at least the last five years an average of 25 percent more pedestrian deaths were recorded in the second half of the year, which includes warmer summer months, Retting said.
WNCN contributed to this article.