Take a Walk on the Safe Side

Pedestrian mortality rates from traffic accidents highest in seniors and minorities

(RxWiki News) One of the first things we learn as children is to look both ways before crossing the street. No matter your age, this childhood lesson can mean the difference between life and death.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released a report on traffic-related pedestrian deaths in the US between 2001 and 2010.

Males, seniors, ethnic and racial minorities and city dwellers had higher rates of death from being hit by a motor vehicle than other groups.

"Watch out for vehicles when walking."

“Motor vehicle traffic crashes are the leading cause of unintentional injury-related death in the United States, resulting in 33,687 deaths in 2010,” wrote the authors of the CDC report.

In the US, 11 percent of all travel takes place on foot. Walkers, joggers and runners make up 13 percent of all motor vehicle-related traffic deaths—roughly 4,000 deaths per year.

Between 2001 and 2010, a total of 47,392 pedestrians (32,873 males and 14,519 females) died from traffic accidents.

Using data from the National Vital Statistics System, a department within the CDC, the researchers looked closely at all traffic related deaths from 2001 to 2010 in the US.

The researchers found that for every 100,000 people in the US, 1.58 of those people had died from a traffic accident.

By age group, people 75 years of age and older had the highest rates of traffic-related pedestrian deaths in the US. Among racial and ethnic groups, American Indian and Alaska Native males and females had the highest pedestrian death rates.

Black and Hispanic males were roughly twice as likely to die while on foot from a traffic accident than white males. American Indian and Alaska Natives were four times more likely to get hit by a vehicle than white males.

According to the authors of the report, these findings suggest that these types of deaths could become more frequent in the future as the US population continues to age and becomes more diverse.

The US Census Bureau predicts that the number of persons 75 years and older will more than double between 2011 and 2040, from around 18 million people to 44 million people.

In 2010 ethnic and racial minorities made up 37 percent of the population in 2010, but were projected to make up 49 percent of the population by 2040.

“Strategies to prevent pedestrian deaths should include consideration of the needs of older adults and cultural differences among racial/ethnic populations,” the authors wrote.

The researchers also found that male pedestrians were 2.5 times more likely to die from traffic incidents than women.

In large central metropolitan areas, adults aged 35 and older had higher rates of pedestrian traffic deaths than in any other setting, with the exception of American Indians and Alaska Natives living in non-metropolitan areas.

Traffic death rates among American Indian and Alaska Native pedestrians in rural areas were nearly double the rates of those in urban settings. 

The researchers found that seniors tend to take fewer walking trips and walk fewer miles than younger adults, but they are also less likely to survive serious injuries than younger adults.

In 2010, roughly three-fourths of pedestrian deaths occurred in urban areas.

The World Health Organization (WHO) will be focusing on reducing pedestrian traffic-related deaths in the future through policy, education and safety awareness.

This report was published in April in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

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Review Date: 
April 18, 2013