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Fatal Pedestrian Accidents Spike to 41-Year High

A pedestrian crossing signal in downtown Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Last year witnessed a concerning surge in pedestrian deaths, reaching the highest single-year total in over four decades, as revealed by a recent traffic safety study conducted by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA).

The study not only highlights this alarming statistic but also emphasizes the urgent need for collective responsibility in ensuring the safety of pedestrians, particularly on the part of motorists sharing the road and avoiding negligent driving behaviors. According to the GHSA's pedestrian accident report, both state and national data substantiate the pedestrian safety crisis on U.S. roads.

The most pedestrian fatalities since 1981

The GHSA conducts an annual analysis of pedestrian accidents nationwide, utilizing data gathered by the NHTSA. In 2022, 7,508 pedestrian deaths occurred nationwide, marking the highest number of fatalities in a single year since 1981.

What is truly alarming is that this grim statistic is not an isolated occurrence. From 2019 to 2022, pedestrian fatalities have risen by 19 percent throughout the nation. Furthermore, between 2010 and 2022, there has been an alarming 77 percent increase in pedestrian deaths, as reported by the GHSA.

Pedestrian deaths in Oklahoma

While the GHSA report does not encompass pedestrian accident data for Oklahoma, as the state was unable to provide the necessary information, recent NHTSA data sheds light on the concerning trend of pedestrian fatalities in Oklahoma. Between 2012 and 2021, the state witnessed a significant and troubling increase in pedestrian deaths.

According to the latest available NHTSA data, in 2021 alone, Oklahoma recorded 106 pedestrian accident fatalities. This figure represents a 63 percent increase compared to 2012, when the state documented 65 pedestrian deaths.

Common causes of pedestrian accidents

Pedestrians being struck by cars in various scenarios, such as using crosswalks, walking alongside the road, or in similar situations, can be attributed to three primary reasons, as identified by the GHSA.

Drunk driving

Approximately 19 percent of pedestrian fatalities occur due to impaired drivers who are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. These situations can include:

  • A pedestrian legally crossing the street in a designated crosswalk is struck by an intoxicated driver who fails to yield or recognize the pedestrian's right of way.
  • Walking alongside the road at night, a pedestrian is hit by an impaired driver who doesn't maintain control of their vehicle.


Drivers who exceed the posted speed limits contribute to approximately 9 percent of pedestrian deaths. Examples of scenarios involving speeding-related pedestrian accidents include:

  • A driver traveling well above the speed limit in a residential area and colliding with a pedestrian who is crossing the street.
  • A driver speeding on a busy road not allowing enough time to react or stop when a pedestrian suddenly enters their path.

Distracted driving

Pedestrian accidents frequently occur due to drivers being distracted by various activities, such as texting while driving or engaging in other tasks that divert their attention from the road. Examples of scenarios involving distracted driving-related pedestrian accidents include:

  • A driver typing a text message on their phone while approaching an intersection and failing to notice a pedestrian crossing the road.
  • A driver is preoccupied with adjusting their vehicle's audio system or engaging in conversation with passengers, resulting in a failure to observe pedestrians in their vicinity.

Increasing pedestrian safety

The GHSA and other traffic safety experts have put forth several recommendations aimed at reducing the occurrence of pedestrian accidents, including:

Install more streetlights

Placing additional streetlights, particularly near crosswalks and areas with a history of pedestrian accidents, can improve visibility and enhance pedestrian safety. Well-lit surroundings can help drivers and pedestrians better identify each other, reducing the risk of collisions.

Decrease speed limits

Lowering speed limits in locations where pedestrian accidents have been prevalent can effectively mitigate the severity and frequency of such incidents. Reduced speeds provide drivers with more reaction time and shorter stopping distances, enhancing overall safety for pedestrians.

Design safer roads

The risk of pedestrian accidents can be significantly reduced by incorporating pedestrian safety features during road design and construction, such as designated walkways, clearly marked crosswalks and traffic-calming measures. Implementing an infrastructure that prioritizes the safety of all road users is essential for fostering a pedestrian-friendly environment.

Educate drivers

Raising awareness among drivers, particularly younger ones, about the inherent risks pedestrians face on the road is crucial. Educational initiatives can emphasize the importance of attentiveness, yielding to pedestrians, and complying with traffic laws to create a culture of responsibility and respect for pedestrians.

Increase police enforcement

Strengthening police enforcement of traffic violations that commonly contribute to pedestrian accidents is paramount. This includes issuing more tickets for speeding, drunk driving, and texting while driving. Robust enforcement serves as a deterrent, promoting compliance with traffic laws and reducing risky behaviors that endanger pedestrians.

A pedestrian accident lawyer can protect your rights

If you get hit by a car or your loved one dies in a fatal pedestrian accident, protecting your rights is essential. While you may initially believe that you can navigate the legal process without the assistance of an attorney, it's important to remember that many pedestrian accident claims quickly evolve into complex legal cases. This is why having a dedicated legal team on your side, advocating for your best interests, is crucial.

At Lawter & Associates, Attorneys at Law, PLLC, our experienced pedestrian accident lawyers are ready to support you every step of the way. We have an in-depth knowledge of the laws relevant to pedestrian accidents and a comprehensive understanding of how the legal system operates in Oklahoma.

Our firm has a strong track record of securing the maximum compensation injury victims deserve. Put your trust in a law firm that puts your needs first. Contact us today and schedule a free case evaluation. We have offices in Tulsa and Oklahoma City.

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