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Pedestrian Safety

Photo: Pedestrians in a cross walk

In 2015, 5,376 pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes in the United States.1 This averages to one crash-related pedestrian death every 1.6 hours.1

Additionally, almost 129,000 pedestrians were treated in emergency departments for non-fatal crash-related injuries in 2015.2 Pedestrians are 1.5 times more likely than passenger vehicle occupants to be killed in a car crash on each trip.3

Who is most at risk?

Older adults

Pedestrians ages 65 and older accounted for 19% of all pedestrian deaths and an estimated 13% of all pedestrians injured in 2015.1


In 2015, one in every five children under the age of 15 who were killed in traffic crashes were pedestrians.1

Drivers and pedestrians who are alcohol-impaired

Almost half (48%) of crashes that resulted in pedestrian deaths involved alcohol for the driver or the pedestrian. One in every three (34%) of fatal pedestrian crashes involved a pedestrian with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of at least 0.08 grams per deciliter (g/dL) and 15% involved a driver with a BAC of at least 0.08 g/dL.1

Additional Risk Factors

Additionally, higher vehicle speeds increase both the likelihood of a pedestrian being struck by a car and the severity of injury.4

Most pedestrian deaths occur in urban areas, non-intersection locations, and at night.1

How can pedestrians help prevent injuries and deaths from motor vehicle crashes?

Pedestrians can increase their visibility at night by carrying a flashlight when walking and by wearing retro-reflective clothing.1

Whenever possible, cross the street at a designated crosswalk or intersection.1

It is much safer to walk on a sidewalk or path, but if a sidewalk or path is not available, walk on the shoulder and facing traffic.1

What are CDC’s research and program activities in this area?

Motor Vehicle Traffic-Related Pedestrian Deaths — United States, 2001–2010

To determine traffic-related pedestrian death rates by sex, age group, race/ethnicity, and urbanization level, CDC analyzed 2001–2010 data from the National Vital Statistics System (NVSS). The results of that analysis indicated that the overall, annualized, age-adjusted traffic-related pedestrian death rate was 1.58 deaths per 100,000 population. Persons aged ≥75 years and those categorized as American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) had the highest death rates, and age group differences varied by race/ethnicity. The results suggest that the overall pedestrian death rate could increase with the aging and growing racial/ethnic diversity of the U.S. population. The U.S. Census Bureau projects that the number of persons aged ≥75 years will more than double, from approximately 18 million in 2011 (6% of the U.S. population) to 44 million in 2040 (12% of the population); minority racial/ethnic populations are projected to increase from 116 million in 2010 (37% of the population) to 186 million in 2040 (49% of the population). Strategies to prevent pedestrian deaths should include consideration of the needs of older adults and cultural differences among racial/ethnic populations.

Related article:
Naumann RB, Beck LF. Motor vehicle traffic-related pedestrian deaths, United States, 2001-2010. Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report 2013;62:277-282. Available at:

Older adult pedestrian injuries in the United States: causes and contributing circumstances

CDC researchers conducted an analysis of six years of data to examine the characteristics and contributing circumstances of nonfatal older adult pedestrian injuries. Data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System—All Injury Program (NEISS-AIP) were analyzed to gather more information about adults ages 65 and older who were non-fatally injured on a public roadway from 2001 to 2006.  Findings showed that, on average, an estimated 52,482 older adults were treated in emergency departments each year for non-fatal pedestrian injuries.  The majority (92.5%) of these injuries were the result of an older adult falling or being hit by a motor vehicle.  More than 9,000 older pedestrian fall-related injuries each year involved a curb—such as an older adult tripping on a curb. While the growth of the older adult population may add to the overall burden of these non-fatal pedestrian injuries, making transportation and mobility improvements—including environmental modifications—can help prevent them.

Related article:
Naumann RB, Dellinger AM, Haileyesus T, Ryan GW. Older adult pedestrian injuries in the United States: causes and contributing circumstances. International Journal of Injury Control and Safety Promotion 2011;18(1):65-73.

Why don’t more children walk to school?

CDC researchers conducted a nationally representative, random-digit-dialed telephone survey among English and Spanish-speaking adults, ages 18 and older. Respondents with at least one child (5-14 years) living in the household were asked about the child’s mode of travel to school. Respondents who reported that the child walked to school less than 4 days per week were asked to identify the primary barrier to walking more often.  The most common mode of travel to school was the family car (46%), followed by school bus (40%), and walking (14%).  Among those who did not usually walk to school, distance (70.7%) was the most common barrier, followed by traffic danger (9%).  Children in the South were less likely to walk to school than children in other regions (Northeast, North Central, West). Distance to school was more commonly cited as a barrier to walking for older children than younger children.  Efforts to promote walking to school may achieve better near-term success if focused on students who already live close to school.

Related article:
Beck LF, Greenspan AI. Special Report from the CDC: Why don’t more children walk to school? Journal of Safety Research 2008;39:449–452.

Pedestrian fatalities, Atlanta Metropolitan Statistical Area and United States, 2000–2004

Motor vehicle crashes killed almost 5,000 pedestrians in 2005 in the United States. Pedestrian risk may be higher in areas characterized by urban sprawl. From 2000 to 2004, pedestrian fatality rates declined in the United States, but the Atlanta metropolitan statistical area did not experience the same decline. Pedestrian fatality rates for males, Hispanics, and the 15–34 and 35–54 year age groups were higher in Atlanta than in the United States overall. Pedestrian safety interventions should be targeted to high-risk populations and localized pedestrian settings.

Related article:
Beck LF, Paulozzi LJ, Davidson SC. Pedestrian fatalities, Atlanta Metropolitan Statistical Area and United States, 2000–2004. Journal of Safety Research 2007;38:613-616.


  1. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Traffic Safety Facts 2015 Data – Pedestrians. Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; 20175. Publication no. DOT-HS-812-375. Available at Accessed May 19, 2017.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. WISQARS (Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System). Atlanta, GA: US Department of Health and Human Services, CDC; 2015. Available at Accessed May 19, 2017.
  3. Beck LF, Dellinger AM, O’Neil ME. Motor vehicle crash injury rates by mode of travel, United States: Using exposure-based methods to quantify differences. Am J Epidemiol 2007;166:212–218.
  4. Rosen E, Sander U. Pedestrian fatality risk as a function of car impact speed. Accid Anal Prev 2009;41:536-542.