California leads nation in pedestrian deaths -- again

A mail carrier passes by a memorial at the corner of Catalina Avenue and Avanue I in Redondo Beach where a bus struck two pedestrians in early February, killing a man and sending a woman to the hospital with serious injuries.
(Christina House / For The Times)

For the second year in a row, California had the country’s highest number of pedestrian fatalities, new statistics indicate.

About 700 pedestrians died in motor vehicle incidents in California in 2014, according preliminary findings released by the Governors Highway Safety Assn.

That’s about equal to the 701 pedestrians killed in California in 2013, the report said.

Nationally, the study said, pedestrian deaths, while not rising with increasing population, are also not falling as a result of education, enforcement and engineering programs. A total of 4,735 pedestrians died on U.S. roadways in 2013, the report said, and an almost equal number died in 2014.


“This is a clearly a good news, bad news scenario,” said Jonathan Adkins, the GHSA’s executive director. “While we’re encouraged that pedestrian fatalities haven’t increased over the past two years, progress [toward eliminating pedestrian deaths] has been slow.”

Despite governmental efforts, and during a period of increasing auto safety, the percentage of pedestrian fatalities compared to all motor vehicle deaths continues to rise. About 11% of all motor vehicle deaths were pedestrians in 2000. Last year, that number was 14%.

But in many states, the percentage of pedestrian deaths was much higher. In California, 23% of all motor vehicle fatalities were pedestrians -- well above the national average. The pedestrian-heavy District of Columbia had the nation’s highest rate, at 45%.

Delaware had the highest per capita fatality rate, with 2.7 deaths per 100,000 population. Florida was next with 2.56, followed by Montana, New Mexico, Arizona, Louisiana and South Carolina, all with per capita rates above 2.0. California’s rate was 1.83 per 100,000.

The report also found that 70% of all pedestrian fatalities occured at night, between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m., and that 70% of all pedestrian victims were male. More than a third of the adults in those incidents had blood alcohol levels over the legal limit.

Speed played a significant role in pedestrian deaths, the report said. In 2013, only 19% of pedestrian deaths occured where the speed limit was under 35 mph. More than a quarter of all deaths occured where the speed limit was 35-40 mph.


In general, the study said, pedestrians are three times more likely to die when struck by vehicles moving at 40 mph as they are by vehicles moving at 25 mph.

Ironically, the report concluded, pedestrian deaths may have risen in the 2010-12 period because warmer weather patterns and a weaker economy meant a higher percentage of people were walking than in cooler and more economically robust periods.

Twitter: @misterfleming