In cities all across the United States, pedestrians and motorists follow orderly rules of the road. Each has their own part of the road and, where they intersect, they each have a turn at the right of way. When everyone follows these rules, everyone can get to where they’re going safely. But no system works perfectly. Intoxication, distraction, or just plain negligence can lead to property damage, injuries, and even death.
At Gateway Law, we handle a lot of disputes related to pedestrian injuries and fatalities. Accidents put a great toll on pedestrians and their families, so we do our best to understand the dynamics at play in each situation. As part of this effort, we set out to study the broader statistics of pedestrian injuries and fatalities in California and beyond. Here’s what we found.
Pedestrian Fatalities are relatively rare in California, but some cities are worse than others.
According to US Department of Transportation data, traffic fatalities are relatively rare in California. Only around 2 pedestrians in 100,000 will die from a traffic accident in any given year. That’s still 2 people too many, but accidents involving pedestrians are not a leading cause of death—in either California or the broader United States.
That isn’t to say that there aren’t differences between California’s major cities. According to the data, San Diego is 12% less safe for pedestrians than Los Angeles.
Traffic accidents are much more common in San Francisco than in other cities in California.
The differences between California cities becomes more stark when you look at the relative frequency of accidents involving pedestrians. In San Francisco, over half of car accidents involve pedestrians, whereas it’s only a third of accidents in Los Angeles. This difference can probably be attributed to the fact that more people walk to their destination in San Francisco than Los Angeles.
Men are more than twice as likely to die as pedestrians than women.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 69% of pedestrian who die from car crashes are men. This is probably because men tend to take more risks than women, especially ones researchers described as “idiotic.”
The late evening and rush hour are most dangerous for pedestrians.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, most fatal accidents involving pedestrians happen between 6 and 9pm. Rush hours are also relative spikes, since more people are on the road at those hours.
The weekend is more dangerous for pedestrians than weekdays.
According to the same data set, Friday and Saturday are approximately 33% more dangerous than the rest of the week. This effect is probably a result of increased drinking and driving on the weekends.
Accidents happening at speeds above 55mph are most likely to be fatal.
It shouldn’t come as any surprise, but higher speed limits mean higher rates of pedestrian injury and death. This holds up across urban, suburban, and rural areas alike.
While pedestrian fatalities and deaths are still too common, they occur in interesting patterns. Studying them can give us insight in how to make our streets safer for everyone.