People Who Drive Are Killing More People Who Walk and Bike Than They Have in 30 Years

CC BY 2.0. Seen in my neighborhood/ Lloyd Alter

Meanwhile, cars and trucks keep getting bigger and higher. It's time to do something.

Walking home from the store recently, I noticed that big shiny trucks were taking over the neighbourhood. Their hoods are taller than I am. They don't look like work vehicles; the big cab means that the pickup beds are too small to carry a sheet of drywall, and they are spotlessly clean and polished.

Meanwhile, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 6,283 people who walk were killed last year by people who drive, the highest number since 1990. The numbers are even worse for people who bike, an increase of 6.3 percent. The number of women who bike that were killed shot up 29.2 percent.

Fatalities inside and out

NHTSA/Public Domain

The people inside the cars and trucks, on the other hand, are safer than ever; the number killed dropped by 966. The fatalities inside the vehicle are trending down, while the fatalities outside the vehicle are trending up.

Andrew Hawkins of Verge reiterates a point that I have been going on about for years: the correlation between vehicle design and pedestrian deaths.

Unsurprisingly, SUVs are continuing to wreak havoc on the roads.... This is mostly because of the way SUVs are designed: larger bodies and higher carriages mean pedestrians are more likely to suffer deadly blows to the head and torso. Higher clearances mean victims are more likely to get trapped underneath a speeding SUV instead of pushed onto the hood or off to the side.

Urban vs rural

NHTSA/Public Domain

That's probably why the number of fatalities is increasing so much in urban areas – who ever drove things like this in the city if you weren't working? These giant trucks and SUVs are taking over the city, and as we noted earlier, "Federal safety regulators have known for years that SUVs, with their higher front-end profile, are at least twice as likely as cars to kill the walkers, joggers and children they hit, yet have done little to reduce deaths or publicize the danger."

The urban population increased by 13 percent since 2009, the total vehicle miles travelled increased by 14 percent, but the pedestrian fatalities increased a huge 69 percent and cyclist fatalities increased 48 percent.

City of Edmonton

City of Edmonton/Public Domain

Cities keep pushing the shared responsibility schtick and the make eye contact thing, but a recent study demonstrated that there is “little concrete evidence that device-induced distracted walking contributes significantly to pedestrian fatalities and injuries.” The problem is design – of our roads, that induce drivers to go to fast, and of our vehicles, which keep getting taller to where eye contact is almost impossible, and with fronts that keep getting deadlier.

The population also keeps getting older, with 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 every day. In Toronto where I live, 60 percent of the fatalities are older people, who are only 14 percent of the population. Yet the vehicles on the road just keep getting more deadly.

If trucks were treated like airplanes....

737 Max parked

© Parked 737 Max airplanes/ Mario Tama/Getty Images

It is shocking that 36,560 Americans were killed in motor vehicle traffic in 2018, the equivalent of a 737 Max falling out of the sky every second day. Yet when two crashed, the entire fleet was grounded.

seen in Toronto: giant pickup trucks

Seen in my neighborhood/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

It's time to ground this fleet of giant SUVs and pickup trucks that aren't even tested for pedestrian safety. It's time to bring in Euro-Ncap testing of every type of vehicle to ensure that they are as safe as they can be. It's time to bring in special, tougher licensing of drivers for every vehicle over 6,000 pounds. It's time to get serious about Vision Zero and fix our roads, reduce the speed limits. It's time to do something, anything, to stop this murder.