Public Safety

Iowa pedestrian fatalities drop for second year, nationwide numbers reach highest in 28 years

A rectangular rapid flash beacon blinks at a crosswalk in front of UnityPoint Health-St. Luke's Hospital on A Avenue NE
A rectangular rapid flash beacon blinks at a crosswalk in front of UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s Hospital on A Avenue NE and 10th Street NE in Cedar Rapids. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

While the nation’s pedestrian fatalities in the first half of last year reached the highest number in almost three decades, Iowa saw a slight decrease from 2017 fatalities, according to a new report.

All told, Iowa was one of just three states to see pedestrian fatality numbers drop in back-to-back years — alongside New Hampshire and Utah — according to the Governors Highway Safety Association’s 2018 Spotlight on Highway Safety report.

According to the GHSA report, pedestrian fatalities in Iowa fell from 10 to 9, when comparing the January-June period of 2017 to the first six months of 2018. Iowa was one of 23 states to see a decline in fatalities.

Iowa also had the second lowest rate of pedestrian fatalities per 100,000 people, with .76 in 2017.

Minnesota had the lowest, with a rate of .75.

In the first half of 2018, Iowa’s rate of pedestrian fatalities per 100,000 people was at .28 — fifth lowest in the nation.

Nationwide, pedestrian fatality numbers have been on the rise. From 2008 — 2017, U.S. pedestrian fatalities increased from 4,414 deaths to 5,977.

In the same span, the combined number of all other traffic deaths fell by 6 percent, according to the report.

“While we have made progress reducing fatalities among many other road users in the past decade, pedestrian deaths have risen 35 percent,” GHSA Executive Director Jonathan Adkins said in a Thursday news release.


“The alarm bells continue to sound on this issue. It’s clear we need to fortify our collective efforts to protect pedestrians and reverse the trend.”

The report also projects pedestrians to account for 16 percent of all traffic deaths in 2018, compared to 12 percent in 2008.

The report details an increased emphasis on walking, paired with a growth in smartphone use by pedestrians and motorists as possible reasons for the rising number of pedestrian deaths.

Other take-aways in the report include increased pedestrian fatalities occurring at night and shifting vehicle sales from passenger cars to light trucks or SUVs — a pedestrian struck by a large SUV is twice as likely to die as those struck by a car, according to the report.

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