Pedestrian Deaths Went Up During COVID Lockdowns–But Why?
You would think that in 2020, when COVID related lockdowns hit, the number of pedestrian deaths would have gone down. There were less cars on the road, many people had few places they absolutely had to be, and thus, it would have been a much safer time for pedestrians.
Except that it wasn’t. In fact, it was more dangerous.
Who Was Killed and How
From 2019-2020, the pedestrian death rate actually went up, and it went up by a large margin, about 20%. That is an adjusted rate, accounting for fewer cars being on the road because of COVID, so it is a fatality rate per mile traveled statistic.
Most pedestrians were killed while they were walking when it was dark outside and on smaller, side roads. Those are roads that lead to retail, small commerce, or grocery stores, which would make sense, as that was most of what people were doing during COVID related lockdowns.
Most pedestrians killed in 2020 were not in intersections. Although busy, intersections do tend to have crosswalks and walking signals, whereas many smaller roads, or roads that aren’t at an intersection, tend not to have.
Why So Many Pedestrian Deaths?
Many reports called these pedestrian deaths mind boggling. Experts have differing theories as to why pedestrian deaths went up, even as traffic went down in 2020.
Some say that when lockdowns hit, so too did more reckless behavior. People drank more. They engaged in extreme sports or sports that put them on roadways without a car, that they could do on their own, like riding golf carts, ATVs, or rollerblading.
With people not willing to be near each other, many people who would have gotten rides from each other to do household errands, were left to walk to grocery stores or pharmacies. All of this leads to more total pedestrians on the roads, and many people walking, who may not have been used to walking and navigating busy roadways on foot.
Speeding has always been a leading cause of death, whether for pedestrians or the people driving the cars, and although the number of cars went down during COVID, the speed they drove at went way up. With wide open, uncongested roads, cars simply traveled much faster. Drivers may have been lulled into a false sense of confidence, seeing an empty roadway ahead of them.
That means that the cars that did strike pedestrians, struck them while driving faster, making the impact that much more deadly.
The upward trend in pedestrian deaths continued from 2020-2021. Many government agencies are calling pedestrian deaths an “epidemic,” and are searching for ways to bring down the number of car-on-person accidents.