Pedestrian and Bicyclist Crash Statistics
In 2015, 5,376 pedestrians and 818 bicyclists were killed in crashes with motor vehicles (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Traffic Safety Facts). These two modes accounted for 17.7 percent of the 35,092 total U.S. fatalities that year. Here are more facts and figues on pedestrian and bicycle crashes:
In 2015, 5,376 people were killed in pedestrian/motor vehicle crashes, nearly 15 people every day of the year (NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts). This represents the highest number of pedestrians killed in one year since 1996. Though total traffic fatalities in the US fell by nearly 18 percent from 2006 to 2015, pedestrian fatalities rose by 12 percent during the same ten year period.
There were an estimated 70,000 pedestrians injured in crashes in 2015, compared to 61,000 in 2006 — a nearly 15 percent increase over ten years. 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 2006: 4,795
- Pedestrian deaths in 2015: 5,376 (NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts)
- Change in pedestrian fatalities between 2006 and 2015: 12.1 percent increase
- Estimated pedestrian injuries in 2006: 61,000
- Estimated pedestrian injuries in 2015: 70,000 (NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts)
- Change in estimated pedestrian injuries between 2006 and 2015: 14.8 percent increase
- The total cost of pedestrian injury among children ages 14 and younger is $5.2 billion per year (Pedestrian and Pedalcyclist Injury Costs in the United States by Age and Injury Severity).
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 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 32,675 total deaths due to motor vehicle crashes and the relatively small 4,884 pedestrian deaths in 2014. In fact, the number of deaths in 2000 caused by poor diet and physical inactivity increased by approximately 66,000, 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?
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.
Causes of injury
According to the 2012 National Survey on Bicyclist and Pedestrian Attitudes and Behaviors, poor quality facilities are the leading cause of pedestrian injury.
|Six most Frequent Sources of Injury||Percent|
|Tripped on an uneven/cracked sidewalk||24|
|Hit by a car||12|
|Tripped on stone||5|
|Stepped in a hole||5|
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 2014 were males.
- Almost three out of every four pedestrian fatalities occur in urban areas (73 percent).
- More than a quarter (26 percent) of all pedestrian fatalities occurred between 6 and 8:59 p.m.
- 47 is the average age of pedestrians killed in 2014, and 37 is the average age of those injured in 2014.
- 34 percent of pedestrians killed had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 g/dL or higher.
- 14 percent of drivers in a pedestrian crash had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 g/dL or higher.
- California (697), Florida (588), and Texas (476) lead the nation in total pedestrian fatalities.
How many people are killed/injured riding bikes?
In 2015, 818 people lost their lives in bicycle/motor vehicle crashes, more than two people every day of the year in the U.S. This represents a 6 percent increase in bicyclist fatalities since 2006 and a 12.2 percent increase from the previous year (2014).
These numbers represent just over two percent of the total number of people killed and injured in traffic crashes in 2015.
The number of estimated bicyclist injuries dropped to 45,000 in 2015, down from 50,000 in 2014. However, like pedestrian injury estimates, 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 2006: 732
- Bicyclist deaths in 2015: 726 (NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts)
- Change in bicyclist fatalities between 2006 and 2015: 6 percent increase
- Estimated bicyclist injuries in 2006: 44,000
- Estimated bicyclist injuries in 2015: 45,000 (NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts)
- Change in estimated bicyclist injuries between 2006 and 2015: 2.3 percent increase
- 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 more than 800 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?
The 3 percent decline in fatalities from 2013 to 2014 is hopeful, 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, more people are bicycling, or they're bicycling in different locations.
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:
- The average age of bicyclists killed in crashes with motor vehicles continues to increase, climbing to 45 years old in 2014, up from 39 in 2004, 32 in 1998, and 24 in 1988.
- 88 percent of those killed were male.
- 71 percent of bicyclist fatalities occurred in urban areas.
- 20 percent of bicyclist fatalities occurred between 6 and 8:59 p.m.
- 19 percent of bicyclists killed had blood alcohol concentrations of 0.08 g/dL or higher.
- In 35 percent of the crashes, either the driver or the bicyclist had blood alcohol concentrations of 0.08 g/dL or higher.
- California (128), Florida (139), and Texas (50) lead the nation in the number of bicyclist fatalities.
- Just two states, Rhode Island and Vermont, reported no fatalities in 2014.
Causes of injury
According to the 2012 National Survey on Bicyclist and Pedestrian Attitudes and Behaviors, nearly a third of all injuries are caused when bicyclists are struck by cars.
|Six most Frequent Sources of Injury||Percent|
|Hit by car||29|
|Roadway/walkway not in good repair||13|
|Rider error/not paying attention||13|
|Dog ran out||4|
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.