Considering Colorado’s hospitable climate, amazing geography and walkable cities, it’s no surprise that many residents and visitors to the state enjoy walking.
While the number of fatalities in pedestrian/vehicle collisions has decreased markedly over the last 15 years, just under 4300 lives were lost in the U.S. in 2010 according to statistics compiled by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA). That same year, there were over 70,000 pedestrian injuries in the U.S.
This of course is down from the last time these statistics were measured in 1995. That year, over 5500 fatalities and 84,000 injuries related to pedestrians occurred.
Fortunately, according to state-by-state data, Colorado is one of the safest states in the country for pedestrians, which only witnessed 36 fatalities in 2010 – per 100,000 in population, that’s 0.71 fatalities.
California, Florida, Texas and New York had the highest incidence of pedestrian accidents and fatalities – per 100,000 in population, these states’ pedestrian fatalities equaled 1.60, 2.58, 1.37 and 1.56 respectively. Accidents in just these four states alone accounted for 41% the total pedestrian fatalities nationwide.
Nearly three out of every four pedestrian fatalities, or 72%, occur in urban areas like Denver or Boulder according to the data. In 2009, just fewer than 70% of pedestrian accident victims were male.
Another factor is the time accidents occur – just under half of all pedestrian fatalities occurred on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays according to the data. Also, over 70% of fatalities occurred at night, or between the hours of 4:00 PM and 4:00 AM.
We can also determine, from NHTSA data, the age groups most affected by pedestrian accidents and fatalities.
Surprisingly, the 45-54 age group saw the most at 798 with the 25-34 age group seeing 599 fatalities nationwide.
More important than the actual number of deaths though is the fatality rate. Although the actual numbers of deaths are lower for the 75-84 and 85+ age groups (326 and 139 respectively), the fatality rate was 2.50 and 2.51. The reason why this rate is higher is because the lower population relative to other age groups.
Another sobering statistic is the number of pedestrian accidents where alcohol or drug intoxication was a factor. According to NHTSA data, 47-percent of traffic crashes where a pedestrian was killed involved alcohol in some way (driver or pedestrian).
Surprisingly, pedestrians with a blood-alcohol content (BAC) of over .08 accounted for 25% of the accident fatalities.
Although the U.S. has seen a 23% drop in pedestrian-related fatalities, this data begs the question on whether walking is a safe way to get around or not. Pedestrians account for 13% of all transportation related fatalities but only 10.9% of trips. It’s hard to answer questions about safety since there isn’t any data available on how many miles people walk each year, or how much time they spend doing it.
Any mode of transportation is going to have risks, and while pedestrian/vehicle crashes and fatalities do happen, the number of deaths due to heart attack/stroke brought on by a lack of physical activity is much, much higher than fatalities due to motor vehicle crashes.
In the end, besides being a great way to get around in urban centers, walking is also an invaluable part of staying healthy.
So get out in the fresh air and enjoy stretching your legs…just be sure you take proper safety precautions. If you’re walking at night, carry a flashlight and wear a reflective vest or some other light-colored clothing. Look both ways before crossing the street and if you can, only cross in a designated crosswalk.