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Why Is Wisconsin Seeing an Increase in Pedestrian Fatalities?

In 2022, pedestrian fatalities reached their highest numbers since 1981, with the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) reporting 7,508 pedestrian deaths.

Pedestrian deaths in Wisconsin are also on the rise. In 2022, a total of 75 pedestrians were killed, an increase of 50% from 2021. A combination of negligent driver habits and infrastructure that prioritizes vehicles over pedestrians are some of the leading reasons for this increase in fatalities.

Read on to explore the causes of Wisconsin’s increasing pedestrian fatalities and how our Wisconsin pedestrian accident attorneys can represent victims of pedestrian collisions.

The Causes of Pedestrian Fatalities

There is no single cause of the increase in pedestrian fatalities in recent years. Instead, multiple factors play a part in the rising number of pedestrian injuries and deaths. The most common causes of pedestrian fatalities include:

Drunk Driving

The nation saw a 14% increase in drunk driving fatalities from 2020 to 2021. Drunk driving increases the risk of collisions, as alcohol interferes with a driver’s ability to react quickly and take in their surroundings—for example, a pedestrian crossing the street.

Pedestrian-Unfriendly Infrastructure

Many areas in Wisconsin were built primarily for vehicle travel. These roads often lack sidewalks, crosswalks, speed bumps, or other measures that protect pedestrians or give them the right of way.

When pedestrians are forced to share the streets with vehicles, they may have little choice but to jaywalk or cross the street on high-speed or multi-lane roads. On roads with no sidewalks, pedestrians frequently must walk in the street itself. They have little to no protection against drivers who are drunk, speeding, or swerving.

High Speed Limits

High speeds directly correlate with the likelihood of a pedestrian being seriously or fatally injured in a collision. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), pedestrians face a 50% risk of serious injury when struck by a car going just 33 MHP. Yet, many urban streets in Wisconsin have speed limits of 35 MPH. That risk increases to 90% when a vehicle’s speed increases to only 48 MPH. 

When pedestrians are struck by vehicles, they don’t have any of the protection that the occupants of a vehicle do. Being struck directly by a car and knocked to the asphalt can do significant and potentially fatal damage to the skull, spine, and vital organs.

Poor Lighting

Pedestrians are at significant risk of injury at night. A 2021 study found pedestrian deaths increased by 45.5% between 2009 and 2017. 85% of those deaths occurred at night.

Poor lighting in urban and rural areas leads to pedestrian fatalities. If an area lacks enough streetlights, or the streetlights are burnt-out, flickering, or dim, it can be difficult for cars to see pedestrians on the side of the road. This increases the risk of an collision, even if the pedestrian is wearing reflective clothing.

What Can We Do?

There’s no way to single-handedly reduce pedestrian fatalities. However, many Wisconsinites have had success working with their local community to improve pedestrian safety using the following methods.

Advocate for Pedestrian-Friendly Roads

Your local municipality may be able to upgrade roads with pedestrian-friendly features to reduce collision risk. This includes adding sidewalks and crosswalks, signal-controlled pedestrian crossings, and speed bumps in locations with frequent pedestrian traffic.

You can also advocate for the improvement of existing pedestrian infrastructure. For instance, if frequent accidents occur at a nearby crosswalk, add beacons or increase the crossing time at the crosswalk.

Request Legislation for Lower Speed Limits

Some drivers will exceed the posted speed limit, no matter how high it is set. This makes higher speed limits particularly hazardous on pedestrian-heavy streets. You can advocate for reduced speed limits on local and statewide levels to reduce fatality risk in pedestrian accidents. Even decreasing the speed limit by 5% can benefit pedestrian safety.

Some locations in Wisconsin have already begun reducing local speed limits on roads frequented by pedestrians. For example, the City of Madison’s Vision Zero project has begun reducing speed limits on roads with a high pedestrian fatality rate.

Brian Hodgkiss Injury Lawyers Represents Pedestrian Accident Victims

Considering the physical and emotional pain that follows a pedestrian accident, such collisions occur far too frequently. If you were injured or lost a loved one in a pedestrian accident in Wisconsin, the attorneys at Brian Hodgkiss Injury Lawyers can investigate the facts of your claim.

We believe all pedestrians have the right to be safe on the road. When representing a pedestrian accident victim, we will collect all evidence available, build a strong argument for damages, and help you recover the compensation you deserve.

Contact us today to schedule a free case review.

Originally published February 13, 2023. Updated May 17, 2024.

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