Pedestrian Safety

Key points

  • Thousands of pedestrians are killed every year on our nation's roads.
  • Speed, location, vehicle size, and alcohol are major risk factors.
  • Pedestrian injuries and deaths are preventable.
People Crossing Street in New York City


  • Nearly 8,000 pedestrians were killed on our nation's roads in crashes involving a motor vehicle in 2021. That's about one death every 66 minutes.1
  • There were also an estimated 104,000 emergency department visits of pedestrians treated for non-fatal crash-related injuries in 2020.1
  • One in six people who died in crashes in 2021 were pedestrians.1

Pedestrian fatal injury trends chart

An animated chart of pedestrian fatal injury data, showing how selecting various years loads different sets of data.
Pedestrian fatal injury data

Timely data can help prevention efforts. This chart shows the number of pedestrian deaths by month and year, including the most recent provisional data available. You can access the full interactive chart by the link below.

View pedestrian fatal injury trends

Risk factors

Speed, location, vehicle size, and alcohol are major risk factors.

  • Higher vehicle speeds increase both the likelihood of a pedestrian being struck by a car and the injury severity.23
  • Most pedestrian deaths (60% in 2020) occur on high-capacity urban roads that typically have posted speed limits of 45-55 miles per hour.4
    • Many of these roads suffer from a design conflict between providing destinations (e.g., stores, restaurants) that people need to access and allowing high travel speeds that often prioritize vehicle movement.
    • For example, among 60 roads that had the most pedestrian deaths during 2001-2016, all were roads with adjacent commercial retail space, nearly all were multilane roads, and more than three-quarters had speed limits of 30 miles per hour or higher.5
  • SUVs can cause more harm to a person on foot when a crash occurs because of the vehicle's greater body weight and larger profile.6
  • Alcohol was involved for the driver and/or pedestrian in nearly half (49%) of crashes that resulted in a pedestrian death in 2021.7 In these crashes:
    • About one out of five (19%) involved a driver with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of at least 0.08 grams per deciliter (g/dL)—a level that is illegal for adults aged 21 and older in all U.S. states.
    • About one out of three (30%) involved a pedestrian with a BAC of at least 0.08 g/dL.7

People at increased risk

Some groups have higher risk for pedestrian death.

  • Adults ages 65 years and older accounted for about 17% of the U.S. population in 2021. However, this group accounted for 21% of all pedestrian deaths in 2021.7
  • Non-Hispanic American Indian and Alaska Native, and Black persons had the highest pedestrian death rates among all racial and ethnic groups in 2021.7

What can be done

Local and state public health partners, other transportation-related agencies, and communities can work together to keep pedestrians safe by:

  • Using sources of public health data, like death certificates, hospital, and emergency department data, to gain a better understanding of pedestrian injury outcomes and prioritize interventions appropriately.
  • Considering evidence-based strategies to reduce alcohol-impaired driving.89
    • Partnering with agencies that prevent and treat substance misuse and use disorders to prioritize intervention placement and reduce impaired driving.
  • Considering evidence-based strategies that promote driving at safe speeds.9
  • Developing community-based coalitions that adopt the Safe System approach — a framework designed to protect everyone on the road.
  • Prioritizing safety over speed and evidence-based design strategies10 like lane narrowing, better lighting, and sidewalk installation during road planning processes.

What you can do

You can keep yourself safe as a pedestrian by:

  • Increasing your visibility when walking at night by carrying a flashlight and wearing reflective clothing, such as reflective vests.6
  • Crossing streets at a designated crosswalk or intersection whenever possible.6
  • Walking on a sidewalk or path instead of the road. Walk on the shoulder and face traffic if a sidewalk or path is not available.6
  • Avoiding using electronic devices like earbuds, which can cause distractions when you are walking.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). WISQARS — Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control; 2022.
  2. Rosen, E. & Sander, U. (2009) Pedestrian Fatality Risk as a Function of Car Impact Speed. Accident Analysis & Prevention, 41(3), 536-542.
  3. Tefft, B. (2013) Impact Speed and a Pedestrian's Risk of Severe Injury or Death. Accident Analysis & Prevention, 50, 871-878.
  4. Governors Highway Safety Association. Pedestrian Traffic Fatalities by State: 2021 [PDF – 37 pages] Preliminary Data, page 15.
  5. Schneider, RJ & Proulx, FR (2021) United States Fatal Pedestrian Crash Hot Spot Locations and Characteristics. Journal of Transport and Land Use, 14(1), 1-23.
  6. Monfort SS. & Mueller BC. (2020) Pedestrian Injuries from Cars and SUVs: Updated Crash Outcomes from the Vulnerable Road User Injury Prevention Alliance. Traffic Injury Prevention, 21(sup 1), S165-S167.
  7. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Traffic Safety Facts 2021 Data: Pedestrians. U.S. Department of Transportation, Washington, DC; 2023.
  8. Guide to Community Preventive Services. CPSTF Findings for Motor Vehicle Injury: Reducing Alcohol-Impaired Driving. 2021.
  9. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Countermeasures that Work: A Highway Safety Countermeasure Guide for State Highway Safety Offices [PDF – 641 pages]. Tenth Edition. 2020.
  10. Federal Highway Administration. Noteworthy Local Policies that Support Safe and Complete Pedestrian and Bicycle Networks [PDF – 107 pages]. U.S. Department of Transportation, Washington, DC; 2016.