Kevin Drum looks at data that suggests that being a pedestrian in the US has gotten a lot more dangerous over the past decade, while it has got safer in Europe. Pedestrian fatalities in the US dropped steadily from 6,482 in 1990 to 4,109 in 2009 before growing rapidly to 6,227 in 2018.
Why? He quotes an article that says that the reasons for the steady drop in Europe are design changes in cars that were required to be implemented by manufacturers there 14 years ago but are not as yet required here.
The focus of the new EU standards has been on safer front-end design to minimize injuries to the legs and head in 25 mph crashes. They will require passenger cars and light vans to pass tests involving the A-pillar, bumper, the hood’s leading edge and windshield to determine if they protect adults and children from leg and head injuries in frontal impact accidents. Automakers will also be required to install flexible bumpers and hoods that crumple and to add 8 inches of space between the exterior structure and the under-hood structure from the front bumper to the windshield to better disperse the impact energy of a person hitting the front end. More stringent rules are expected to be phased in beginning in 2010, when the number of tests doubles to four — two for leg injuries and two for head injuries. The changes are expected to save 2,000 lives annually.
But while this could explain the disparity between the US and Europe, it does not explain the recent rise in the US. Are car drivers in the US getting more aggressive and reckless? Is road rage rising? Are drivers and pedestrians getting more distracted?
UPDATE: In the comments Dunc has a helpful comment that takes into account population numbers and vehicle numbers traveled that provide a better measure than the raw fatality numbers in my post. The conclusion of a drop and then a rise does not change.