Pedestrian deaths had been on a decline since 1980 onward. However, since 2009, there have been a rising number of pedestrian deaths on America’s roads; this increase was bumped further during the pandemic. In fact, pedestrian fatalities have increased faster than other kinds of traffic-related deaths. According to the Governors Highway Safety Administration, which analyzed government data on this point, in 2022, a minimum of 7508 people died after being hit by U.S. drivers. The New York Times’s “The Upshot” tried to come up with answers to this surge in pedestrian death using the hivemind of its readers. These answers ranged from increased smartphone use to increasing podcasts and cataracts.
Some of the reader theories seemed stronger, the Upshot suggested. These included LED headlights, streetlight design, aging drivers, and fewer pedestrians, which has meant fewer norms around safety in driving around pedestrians.
One of the most common issues raised by readers was that brighter LED lights, which are intended to help drivers navigate at night are blinding for both pedestrians and oncoming cars, which can lead to death. However, researchers have found that while LED lights are brighter, but they are also becoming safer. The safety ratings for headlights have improved, too; the higher the rating of the headlight, the lower the collision rates, including car crashes with pedestrians, which suggests they haven’t seriously contributed to increased pedestrian death. Similarly, if people were blinded by headlights, thereby causing fatalities among pedestrians, passenger and driver deaths would have gone up, too, which they had not.