Updated NHTSA Data On People Killed While Walking Shows 40 Year High

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has updated its Fatality and Injury Reporting System Tool (FIRST) with 2021 allowing detailed analysis of traffic fatalities for the years 2007-2021. Looking back further involves compiling data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), but all of the data comes from NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) which became operational in 1975.

The total number of pedestrian fatalities in 2021 is reported as 7,388, the highest number since 1981 when 7,837 people were reportedly killed while walking. This is a nearly 80% increase from a low of 4,109 deaths in 2009.

Detailed data available through FIRST allows reporting for states and cities that is not typically available in NHTSA preliminary releases. At the state level, California, Florida, and Texas saw an average increase of over 100 deaths of people walking per year for the years 2017-2021 compared to 2012-2016. Southern states, led by Florida, had the highest rates of pedestrian fatalities per people who walk to work as their primary mode of transportation – with most states seeing an increase in pedestrian deaths and a decrease in the number of people walking to work. At a population level, per capita pedestrian deaths ranged from a low of 7.8 per million in Minnesota to a high of 40 pedestrian deaths per million people in New Mexico.

At the city level, nearly 80% of the cities included in the Benchmarking Project saw increases in pedestrian deaths and nearly 50% saw increases in bicyclist deaths. Bicyclist deaths, typically being smaller in number, have a higher variability and among the cities with the most bicyclist deaths over the last decade there were notable one-year decreases in New York City, Detroit, Fresno, and Portland, Oregon. Los Angeles and Houston tied for the most bicyclist deaths of any city in the United States with 12. More than 30 cities included in the Benchmarking Project had 12 or more pedestrian deaths.

Overall, our most recent update to data.bikeleague.org updates 19 Figures across national, state, and city geographies: