NEW YORK: The number of US pedestrians killed in road accidents in 2018 was the highest since 1990, a new estimate indicated Thursday - an increase blamed in part on the rising use of SUVs and smartphones.
A total of 6,227 pedestrians were killed on American roads last year, according to preliminary data published by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), an agency representing several local road safety authorities.
That figure is the highest since the 6,482 pedestrian fatalities recorded in 1990.
It shows a 4.1 per cent increase from 2017 - and a whopping 51 per cent increase as compared with 2009.
It is especially troubling given that the number of people killed in traffic accidents only went up 4.1 per cent from 2009 to 2017.
On a per capita basis, the United States has more pedestrian road deaths (19 per million) than other Western countries like France (7.2 per million in 2017), Canada (9.5 per million in 2016) or Britain (7.1 per million in 2017).
So what is to blame?
The GHSA cited multiple causes, but highlighted that the number of pedestrians killed in accidents involving sports utility vehicles (SUVs) jumped 50 percent in just four years, between 2013 and 2017.
Accidents involving pedestrians and other passenger vehicles only rose 30 per cent in that time frame, according to the preliminary data.
For several years, the US auto market has been marked by an increased interest in large and expensive cars, especially SUVs, so-called "crossover" vehicles and pick-up trucks.
In the study, the GHSA also cited the proliferation of smartphone use, "which can be a significant source of distraction for all road users."
Plus, according to the agency, lower fuel prices and a generally favorable economy mean more miles on the road for American drivers - meaning there are more chances for pedestrian road fatalities.
The GHSA projection was calculated based on figures from all 50 states and the US capital Washington for the first half of 2018.
The GHSA outlined measures authorities can take to reduce pedestrian deaths, including public information campaigns, especially in high-risk areas; creating special safe school routes; and conducting pedestrian safety assessments.