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Consumer Reports: Data shows slight drop in highway deaths, but pedestrian deaths keep rising

New NHTSA report demonstrates why automakers, government must act to reduce pedestrian fatalities

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) today released highway crash fatality data for 2018. NHTSA found that 36,560 people died on U.S. roads in 2018, a decrease of 2.4 percent from 2017.

Consumer Reports experts said that these numbers are trending in the right direction, but still are far too high, and continuing increases in pedestrian and cyclist deaths must be addressed. NHTSA’s research released today found that pedestrian fatalities in 2018 increased to 6,283, a 3.4% increase from 2017 and the highest total since 1990. Pedestrian deaths now have risen about 53% since 2009, and account for 17% of all roadway fatalities.

“This is an epidemic of preventable deaths,” said Jake Fisher, senior director of auto testing for Consumer Reports. “We need to double down to figure out how to achieve better pedestrian detection and more widespread adoption.”

CR has identified a number of actions NHTSA could take to further reduce road deaths, including making proven safety features like automatic emergency braking standard and mandating connected-vehicle safety equipment, both of which would be expected to significantly mitigate crashes or prevent them entirely. CR also has reported on ways both local governments as well as industry can work to combat pedestrian fatalities on our roads.

“One of the most troubling trends is the increase in pedestrian deaths, but car companies can do something about it. Some of the newest cars on the road have pedestrian detection. The technology works, but it needs to be effective in more crashes and should come standard on all cars,” said Ethan Douglas, senior policy analyst for Consumer Reports. “Automakers should make the safety of pedestrians a priority right now. Technology that saves lives shouldn’t just be a luxury add-on.”

NHTSA today noted that it will consider upgrading its five-star safety ratings to include technologies tied to the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists, as the agency has said before. CR would consider this a welcome addition to the crash evaluation program, but in the meantime, CR and other safety groups have been pushing the industry to improve in this area on its own.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has found that some pedestrian detection systems have reduced claims related to pedestrian crashes by as much as 35%, and recent research from AAA has found that detecting and avoiding pedestrians in the dark is one area in which automakers can improve the current technology.


Contact: David Butler, dbutler@consumer.org, 202-462-6262, or Douglas Love, dlove@consumer.org, (914) 378-2437

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