Pedestrian Deaths Up 13% Nationwide; October Is the Deadliest Month

Pedestrian Deaths Up 13% Nationwide; October Is the Deadliest Month
Graphic: Nathaniel Blum

As daylight dwindles in October and temperatures begin to drop, the risk of pedestrians being fatally struck by cars rises to the highest level of any other month of the year, according to a Bumper review of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS)

Traffic accidents increased during the pandemic years, and so, too, have fatalities of pedestrians—in fact, pedestrian fatalities nationwide increased 13.12% per 100,000 population in 2021, the most recent year of available data, compared to the average from 2019 and 2020.

In recognition of National Pedestrian Safety Month, Bumper analyzed the FARS dataset from 2017 to 2021 to gain more perspective on the nationwide increase of pedestrian-involved fatal car accidents.

We found that fatally-injured pedestrians are usually men between the ages of 50 and 65, attempting to cross a road away from an intersection. And pedestrian victims are more likely to be under the influence of alcohol than the drivers that hit them.

While the increase was notable nationwide, some states have a notably higher risk of pedestrian deaths, and other states have actually seen a decline in the rate of pedestrian deaths.

New Mexico is the most dangerous state for pedestrians, New Hampshire the safest

In the map below, you can see every pedestrian-related traffic fatality recorded from Jan. 1, 2017, through Dec. 31, 2021.

The national average is 2.21 pedestrian fatalities per 100,000 population. But some states had a far higher rate, while others were well below the national average.

  • Most dangerous states for pedestrians are New Mexico, Louisiana and Florida. In 2021, New Mexico had the highest pedestrian fatality rate, with 4.77 deaths per 100,000 people, followed by Louisiana (3.96), Florida (3.72) South Carolina (3.64) and Arizona (3.38).
  • Safest states are New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Nebraska. The lowest death rate was found in New Hampshire, with 0.58 pedestrian deaths per 100,000 population, followed by Rhode Island (0.64), Nebraska (0.76), Wisconsin (0.81) and Minnesota (0.88).

The most dangerous states are found primarily in the Southwestern and Southeastern areas of the US, while the safest states are more clustered in the Northeast and Midwest regions.

Most dangerous states for pedestrian accidents

Rank State Rate per 100k population
1 New Mexico 4.77
2 Louisiana 3.96
3 Florida 3.72
4 South Carolina 3.64
5 Arizona 3.38
6 Mississippi 3.19
7 Delaware 2.89
8 Georgia 2.824
9 California 2.816
10 Texas 2.75

Safest states for pedestrian accidents

Rank State Rate per 100k population
1 New Hampshire 0.58
2 Rhode Island 0.64
3 Nebraska 0.76
4 Wisconsin 0.81
5 Minnesota 0.88
6 Iowa 0.94
7 Massachusetts 1.06
8 Idaho 1.10
9 Vermont 1.24
10 Utah 1.29

States seeing largest increase, decrease in pedestrian deaths

To determine which states saw the biggest increases and decreases in pedestrian deaths, we examined the average death rates in states in 2019 and 2020, and compared the rate of change with 2021 statistics.

The national average saw a 13.12% increase in pedestrian deaths per 100,000 people in 2021. Looking at individual states, however, some had much higher increases and notable declines.

  • States with the biggest increase in pedestrian deaths are Alaska, Idaho and North Dakota. Alaska saw the greatest percentage rise among all states with an increase of 68.10%, followed by Idaho (53.67%), North Dakota (51.68%), Maine (49.13%) and West Virginia (47.47%).
  • States with the largest decline in pedestrian deaths were Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Nebraska. Rhode Island saw its rate of pedestrian deaths decline by 45.93%, followed by New Hampshire (-39.58%), Nebraska (-22.17%), Hawaii (-18.90%) and Wisconsin (-12.95%).

States with largest increase in pedestrian deaths

RankState% increase
3North Dakota51.68%
5West Virginia47.47%
10South Dakota32.53%

States with the biggest decrease in pedestrian deaths

RankState% increase
1Rhode Island-45.93%
2New Hampshire-39.58%

Who are the victims? Most often older men

The age group most at risk of pedestrian fatalities are between the ages of 55 and 59, accounting for 10.00% of all victims the past five years, followed closely by pedestrians ages 60 to 64 (9.00%) and walkers ages 50 to 54 (8.69%).

Together, the victims ages 50 to 64 made up 27.69% of fatal accidents, while children up to age 14 accounted for 2.92% and teenagers ages 15 to 19 made up 3.26% of victims.

As shown in the chart below, pedestrian deaths climb for victims in their 20s and 30s, dips for victims in their 40s before climbing again.

Age of pedestrian fatalities*

RankAge bracketPedestrian accidents% of pedestrian accidents
155 to 593,23210.00%
260 to 642,9109.00%
350 to 542,8088.69%
435 to 392,7378.47%
530 to 342,7308.45%
625 to 292,5837.99%
745 to 492,4837.68%
840 to 442,4397.55%
965 to 692,1336.60%
1020 to 242,0266.27%
1170 to 741,4804.58%
1275 to 791,1503.56%
1315 to 191,0523.26%
1480 to 848382.59%
1585 to 895391.67%
1610 to 143541.10%
170 to 43351.04%
185 to 92550.79%
1990 to 942020.63%
2095 to 99290.09%
21100 or Above10.00%

*Based on analysis of reported pedestrian fatalities from 2017-2021.

Gender of pedestrian victims

While there’s diversity among age groups of victims, when examining gender, the tale is clear: 69.94% of pedestrian victims who are killed in a car accident are male and 29.56% are female.

Pedestrian victims more likely to be intoxicated than drivers

In accidents where a pedestrian has been killed, victims are more likely to have been drinking than the motorists who struck them.

Pedestrians had been drinking in just under 17% of fatalities or using drugs in about 11% of the incidents; alcohol was a factor for drivers in just over 7% of accidents where a pedestrian has been killed in the past five years (no information was available for driver drug use). As the FARS data notes, alcohol data is often missing from reports and may undercount the actual number of drinking drivers.

Fall and winter months see the highest rise

The fall and winter months of October through January saw the highest incidences of pedestrian fatalities, according to the 2017 through 2021 traffic fatality data.

Accidents are more likely on Thursdays and Fridays at 9 p.m.

The most recent five years of data shows that Thursdays and Fridays stand out as the two days of the week when pedestrian fatalities are more common. The most dangerous time of any day of the week is from 6 p.m. through 11 p.m., peaking at 9 p.m.

Day of the week accidents occurred*

Time of day for pedestrian accidents*

*Based on analysis of reported pedestrian fatalities from 2017-2021.

Weather conditions when accidents occurred

Poor weather conditions are not always the cause of pedestrian fatalities—more than seven in 10 occurred when the weather was clear. Less than 13% of these accidents occurred in cloudy conditions and 8.42% in rainy conditions.

Pedestrians most often struck crossing unmarked roadways

Nearly seven in 10 (67.70%) pedestrian traffic fatalities occurred when walkers crossed roadways outside of a marked intersection or crosswalk. About one in 10 (9.41%) happened in marked crosswalks, followed by 4.82% on the shoulder or side of the road and 4.15% of happened at an intersection without a crosswalk. Pedestrians being struck on the sidewalk happened in 1.77% of fatalities.

Streetlights don’t always protect pedestrians—in fact, more pedestrians were killed during dark conditions with streetlights (39.21%), compared to 35.05% who were killed on dark roads without streetlights. One in five fatal accidents occurred during daylight conditions.

How to protect yourself and loved ones from pedestrian accidents

Here are some top safety tips experts recommend to try and make sure you stay safe from pedestrian car accidents:

For pedestrians:

  • Always cross the roads at designated crosswalks. As shown above, about seven in 10 pedestrian fatalities happen when crossing the road away from intersections and marked crosswalks. If there are no crosswalks available, cross at a corner rather than in the middle of a street.
  • Wear reflective material and carry a flashlight. As most accidents happen between 6 p.m. and 11 p.m., it’s important to stand out. Even if the roadway is lit, don’t assume you are being seen—as our study shows, more accidents actually happen in dark conditions when the roadway is lit.
  • Face traffic when you are walking on the side of the road. It’s always better to walk on a sidewalk than on the shoulder of the road, but when necessary walk facing oncoming traffic.
  • Don’t text and walk. Just as drivers are distracted by electronic devices, having your head trained to your phone can both distract you from motorist dangers and, in dark conditions, prevent your eyes from adjusting to the night. Earbuds or headphones also prevent you from hearing oncoming traffic.
  • Alcohol and drugs impact your safety, too. Our study shows pedestrians who are killed in an accident are more likely to be under the influence of alcohol than the drivers who strike them. Remember that walking drunk can impair your decision-making, too.

For drivers:

As a 2020 study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety notes, the growing preference for SUVs—which have a higher profile than sedans—has led to a rise in pedestrian fatalities over the past decade. So it’s never been more important for drivers to be aware of pedestrian traffic.

  • Always yield to pedestrians. Whether at a designated crosswalk or if a pedestrian illegally crosses in the middle of a roadway, always give pedestrians the right of way. Be sure not to block crosswalks when at an intersection.
  • Obey traffic speed limits. Speeding is a leading cause of death in motorist accidents. As the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) advises: “Driving a few miles over the speed limit might not feel like a big deal, but in a collision with a pedestrian, it can be the difference between life and death.”
  • Don’t drink and drive. Using drugs or alcohol impacts your ability to avoid pedestrians and costs lives.
  • Don’t drive distracted by devices. As the NHTSA notes, taking your eyes off the road traveling at 55 MPH for five seconds is the equivalent of traveling a football field with your eyes closed. Park if you need to use your device.


Bumper analyzed data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System from Jan 1, 2017, through Dec. 31, 2021, for this study. Population data used in the study came from the Federal Highway Administration.

For more information, contact the Bumper Public Relations team ([email protected]).

About Bumper

At Bumper, we are on a mission to bring vehicle history reports and ownership up to speed with modern times. A vehicle is one of the most expensive purchases you'll likely make, and you deserve to have access to the same tools and information the pros use to make the right decisions.

About Kevin Voigt

Kevin Voigt is Associate Director of Data Studies. With more than 30 years experience as a reporter, editor and foreign correspondent, he worked as senior homepage editor for International and a reporter for the Wall Street Journal based in Hong Kong. He previously covered mutual funds and cryptocurrency as a senior writer for NerdWallet. He began his career working for local newspapers in Indiana and Ohio, where he won numerous awards for news and feature writing.

Disclaimer: The above is solely intended for informational purposes and in no way constitutes legal advice or specific recommendations.