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Why are more pedestrians dying in collisions?

A new Governors Highway Safety Association study looks for reasons why pedestrian deaths are up nearly 10 percent over last year.

IIHS Crash Test
Unlike the IIHS' small frontal-offset collision, NHTSA's new oblique front test will crash the car into a solid object at an angle. The IIHS' test is still head-on, just with a smaller overlap between car and barrier.
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

As crash standards grow more stringent, fewer vehicle occupants are dying in collisions. But many of those advancements don't help much for folks outside the car. According to a new study by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), pedestrian deaths are actually on the rise.

Using preliminary data reported by State Highway Safety Offices, and adjusting that data for underreporting, GHSA posits that pedestrian deaths are up 10 percent through the first half of 2015. Without that adjustment, it's still a surprising 6 percent. There isn't any more recent data available yet.

So, why is this happening? The study (found here in PDF) believes a confluence of factors is to blame. First, low gas prices and a recovering economy are leading us to drive more often. Other data suggests that more Americans are walking to work, as well. Additional factors include raising speed limits and distracted walking.

But the largest factor continues to be the demon juice, alcohol. Booze remains the largest factor in pedestrian deaths, and the study notes that 34 percent of pedestrians killed have a blood-alcohol content above the legal driving limit. Add in drunk drivers, and nearly half of all accidents fatal to pedestrians involve liquor.

GHSA's study also contains some interesting by-state data points. It points out that 42 percent of all pedestrian deaths took place in four states -- California, Florida, Texas and New York. The three states with the highest pedestrian fatality counts per capita are Arizona, Delaware and Florida. Some states, like Vermont, have zero recorded pedestrian deaths in the first half of 2015. It also explains what each state is doing to combat this rise in pedestrian fatalities.