Two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, pedestrian fatalities are reaching record territory as reckless driving plagues the nation’s roadways.
Massachusetts is no exception. On Dec. 15, 2021, a pedestrian was killed after being hit by a car in Brighton. A month earlier, a 37-year-old man landed in the hospital after being struck by a car in Norwood. In October, a school bus hit and killed a woman walking her dogs in Mattapan. A few months earlier, a pick-up truck struck a child in Dorchester.
Unfortunately, the list of Massachusetts pedestrians who have sustained severe or fatal injuries after being struck by cars and trucks in recent months is too long to list here.
According to state officials, Massachusetts has averaged 70 pedestrian fatalities per year in the five years from 2017 to 2021. The state recorded 55 pedestrian deaths in 2020 when traffic volume plummeted during government stay-at-home orders at the beginning of the pandemic. However, as the orders have lifted, Massachusetts has seen its numbers significantly increase, with 76 pedestrian deaths recorded in 2021.
While many traffic experts speculated that less time on the road would translate into fewer pedestrian deaths, the opposite happened. States such as New Mexico, New Jersey, and Texas have seen pedestrian deaths climb to record-high numbers.
Empty roadways allowed some drivers to travel at faster speeds. In some jurisdictions, police chiefs opted not to enforce speeding laws to avoid face-to-face contact between police officers and traffic violators.
Safety experts and psychologists are just starting to understand other reasons for the jump in pedestrian deaths. Some drivers were just plain angry, while others felt they could engage in risky driving behavior because they were being so cautious in other areas of their lives.
The experts explained that when people are deprived of social contact, which is a source of pleasure and comfort, and their risk-gauging capacity is overloaded, safe driving may not seem as important as it once was.
Pedestrian Deaths Up 46%
According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, motor vehicle crashes in the U.S. killed more than 6,700 pedestrians in 2020, which is about a 5% increase from the 6,412 pedestrians killed the year before.
The group also looked at vehicle miles traveled and projected that the pedestrian death rate rose about 21% in 2020 even though people drove much less that year. It said this year-over-year increase is the largest ever.
Overall, the pandemic has added accelerant to trends that have seen rising pedestrian death rates across the nation. For example, car crashes killing pedestrians skyrocketed 46% in the last decade compared with a 5% uptick for all other motor vehicle crashes, the Governors Highway Safety Association reported.
An aging population is another factor that has played a role in the jump in pedestrian deaths. In Massachusetts, from 2017 to 2021, more than 75% of pedestrian deaths involved individuals aged 35 or older because of the state’s changing demographics. Older adults are more likely to be killed in pedestrian accidents because of their slow movement across roadways.
Larger trucks and sport-utility vehicles on the nation’s roadways also contributed. These vehicles have higher front ends and strike walkers, joggers, and others traveling Boston’s streets on foot with greater force than older model passenger cars. Traffic fatalities in the U.S. started climbing in 2009 when consumers began switching en masse from smaller-sized sedans to larger SUVs.
In addition, some experts believe that modern-day safety features such as rear-view cameras and lane departure warnings provide drivers with a sense of security that may cause them to overlook any risk posed to pedestrians.
People who are frustrated and angry in life tend to engage in aggressive driving, and the increase in alcohol consumption during the pandemic may have led to more drunk drivers behind the wheel.
Most Dangerous Intersections in Boston for Pedestrians
According to Vision Zero Boston, these were the top high-crash intersections for pedestrians in the city from 2015-17:
- Massachusetts Avenue and Beacon Street
- Massachusetts Avenue and Columbus Avenue
- Massachusetts Avenue and Albany Street
- Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard
- Columbia Road and Washington Street
If you or someone you know has been hit by a car, we encourage you to contact our law office for a free legal consultation. We believe that aggressive drivers should pay the price for harming innocent people. Our Boston pedestrian accident attorneys understand the seriousness of these cases and will fight until you recover full compensation.