Pedestrian and Bicyclist Crash Statistics
In 2011, 4,432 pedestrians and 677 bicyclists were killed in crashes with motor vehicles (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Traffic Safety Facts). Here are more facts and figues on pedestrian and bicycle crashes:
In 2011, 4,432 people were killed in pedestrian/motor vehicle crashes, more than 12 people every day of the year (NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts). Though the number of pedestrian fatalities fell from 4,901 in 2001 to 4,432 in 2011, there were 69,000 reported pedestrian injuries in 2011; nearly one injury every 8 minutes. Pedestrian injuries had been on a downward trend for the past two decades, and slightly decreased in 2011 after rising in 2010. Furthermore, we know from research into hospital records that only a fraction of pedestrian crashes that cause injury are ever recorded by the police.
- Pedestrian deaths in 2001: 4,901
- Pedestrian deaths in 2011: 4,432 (NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts)
- Reduction in pedestrian fatalities between 2001 and 2011: 9.6 percent
- Pedestrian injuries in 2001: 78,000
- Pedestrian injuries in 2011: 69,000 (NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts)
- Reduction in pedestrian injuries between 2001 and 2011: 11.5 percent
- The total cost of pedestrian death and injury among children ages 14 and younger is $5.2 billion per year (Safe Kids Worldwide).
The raw numbers hide many trends, truths, and lessons, and they present a wide range of questions: Is walking more dangerous than other modes of travel? Is walking getting safer? Who is getting killed in pedestrian crashes, where, when, and why? The following section seeks to answer some of these questions and provide a better perspective and context for the facts.
Is walking more dangerous than other modes of travel?
Pedestrians are over-represented in the crash data, accounting for nearly 14 percent of all traffic fatalities but only 10.9 percent of trips. However, there is no reliable source of exposure data to really answer this question—transportation professionals don't have an accurate sense of how many miles people walk each year, or how many minutes or hours people spend walking or crossing the street (and thus how long they are exposed to motor vehicle traffic).
As with every mode of travel, there is clearly some risk associated with walking. However, walking remains a healthful, inherently safe activity for tens of millions of people every year. The public health community recognizes that lack of physical activity, and a decline in bicycling and walking in particular, is a major contributor to the hundreds of thousands of deaths caused by heart attacks and strokes—this number dwarfs the 32,367 total deaths due to motor vehicle crashes and the relatively small 4,432 pedestrian deaths in 2011. In fact, the number of deaths in 2000 caused by poor diet and physical inactivity increased by approximately 65,000, accounting for about 15.2 percent of the total number of deaths (1).
1. Allison, David B., Kevin R. Fontaine, JoAnn E. Manson, June Stevens, Theodore B. VanItallie, and Ali H. Mokdad. Annual Deaths Attributable to Obesity in the United States, JAMA. 1999; 282:1530-1538. Vol. 293 No. 3, January 19, 2005.
Is walking getting safer?
A reduction in fatalities of almost ten percent since 2001 certainly looks promising, but without a better understanding of how many people are walking, where they are walking, and how far/often they are walking, it is difficult to determine if safety improvements are truly being made. A reduction in pedestrian crashes could be attributed to fewer people walking in general, or to improvements in facilities, law enforcement, education, and behavior that are really leading to more people walking and to fewer pedestrian fatalities.
Who is getting killed in pedestrian crashes?
A detailed breakdown of the age, gender, and location of pedestrian crash victims is available from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) fact sheets. Some of the more noteworthy trends or numbers are:
- 70 percent of pedestrian killed in 2011 were males.
- Almost three out of every four pedestrian fatalities occur in urban areas (73 percent).
- Nearly one-third (32 percent) of all pedestrian fatalities occurred between 8:00 p.m. and 11:59 p.m.
How many people are killed/injured riding bikes?
In 2011, 677 lost their lives in bicycle/motor vehicle crashes, just under two people every day of the year in the U.S. While lower than the 732 fatalities in 2001, this number represents an increase from the 618 bicyclist fatalities reported in 2010.
These numbers represent just over two percent of the total number of people killed and injured in traffic crashes in 2011.
The number of estimated bicyclist injuries fell to 48,000 in 2011 after leveling off in recent years with 52,000 injuries in 2008, 51,000 in 2009, and 52,000 again in 2010. However, these figures have not always been so steady. Injuries totaled 68,000 in 1993 and slowly fell to 41,000 in 2003, only to rise again. Like walking injury figures, research into hospital records shows that only a fraction of bicycle crashes causing injury are ever recorded by the police, possibly as low as ten percent.
- Bicyclist deaths in 2001: 721
- Bicyclist deaths in 2011: 677 (NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts)
- Reduction in bicyclist deaths between 2001 and 2011: 7.5 percent
- Bicyclist injuries in 2001: 45,000
- Bicyclist injuries in 2011: 48,000 (NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts)
- Increase in bicyclist injuries between 2001 and 2011: 6.7 percent
- The total cost of bicyclist injury and death is over $4 billion per year (National Safety Council).
Is bicycling more dangerous than other modes of travel?
Obviously with 677 deaths per year, there are risks associated with riding a bicycle. Bicycle fatalities represent less than two percent of all traffic fatalities, and yet bicycle trips account for only one percent of all trips in the United States. However, bicycling remains a healthful, inherently safe activity for tens of millions of people every year.
As mentioned, bicyclists seem to be over-represented in the crash data, but, there is no reliable source of exposure data as we don't know how many miles bicyclists travel each year, and we don't know how long it takes them to cover those miles (and thus how long they are exposed to motor vehicle traffic). Risk based on exposure varies by time of day (with night time being more risky), experience level of rider, location of riding, alcohol use, and many other factors. Until we have better exposure measures, we just don't know how bicyclist risk compares to other modes, but the health benefits of riding may offset some of this risk.
Is bicycling getting safer?
A drop of nearly 8 percent in fatalities since 2001 sounds hopeful at least—but without knowing how many people are riding, and how far they are riding, there's no way of knowing whether the drop in crashes is because conditions are actually safer, fewer people are bicycling, or they're bicycling in different locations. For example, people may be riding more on paths and trails where crashes are not likely to be reported, and less on roadways including neighborhood streets, because they perceive roadway conditions to be less safe.
In 1994, the U.S. Department of Transportation adopted a policy of doubling the percentage of trips made by bicycling and walking while simultaneously reducing by 10 percent the number of bicyclists and pedestrians injured in traffic crashes. The goals are to be pursued together—one cannot or should not be achieved at the expense of the other goal. Experience from many European countries suggests that increasing levels of bicycling can be done without increasing crash rates, and that strength in numbers can yield safety benefits.
Who is getting killed in bicycling crashes?
A detailed breakdown of the age, gender, and location of bicycle crash victims is available from The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Some of the more noteworthy trends and numbers are:
- In 2011, the average age of bicyclists killed in crashes with motor vehicles was 43 years old, up from 32 in 1998, and 24 in 1988.
- 85 percent of those killed were male.
- 69 percent of bicyclist fatalities occurred in urban areas
- 30 percent of bicyclist fatalities occurred between 4:00 p.m. and 7:59 p.m.
For more pedestrian and bicyclist crash facts, check with these organizations:
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
- NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts
- Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)
- Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS)
Local bicycling and pedestrian data
Your local city planning agency or public works department may have inventories of walking and bicycling facilities and possibly, measures of walking and bicycling activity. If you are looking for local pedestrian and bicycle crash statistics, try these sources:
- Police Department
- Hospital/Emergency Room
- Local or State Department of Transportation (DOT)
- Department of Public Health or Other Sources
First, check with your local police department for crash records involving bicyclists and pedestrians. In addition to crash statistics, the police may be able to recommend other local sources of data. One thing to consider, however, is that police reports often represent a fraction of the total bicycle and pedestrian crashes in an area.
Another good source of crash data is the emergency room of the local hospital or health care facility. These records will help supplement the data found in police reports. Contact the hospital for help finding the appropriate department for crash statistics.
Local or State Department of Transportation
A third source for crash data is the state or local Department of Transportation. Start by contacting your state DOT and asking for a source of bicyclist and pedestrian crash statistics. Also ask for any local organizations or agencies that might be involved in bicycle ane/or pedestrian safety research in the community or region.
Department of Public Health or Other Sources
Other local sources of crash data can include Departments of Public Health, neighborhood safety advocates, university programs, and town transportation planning boards. Even if these sources do not have crash statistics, they may know of other agencies that collect such information.