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Over the last four decades, the number of pedestrian fatalities involving the elderly and children has fallen sharply, while there’s been a huge increase in the number of deaths among people ages 20 to 69,  according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.

In the last two years, however, the total number of pedestrians struck and killed by an automobile has remained relatively flat, preliminary data supplied by the highway safety offices in all 50 states and the District of Columbia show. Some 2,125 pedestrians were killed between January and June 2014, compared to 2,141 deaths over the same time period in 2013.

“While we’re encouraged that pedestrian fatalities haven’t increased over the past two years, progress has been slow,” Jonathan Adkins, GHSA executive director, said in a press release. “Protecting pedestrians is a priority for GHSA and our members; we’re determined to drive the number down to zero.”

Falling over time

Both pedestrian and motor vehicle deaths have fallen sharply since 1975, the GHSA says, but the decline has been far greater for pedestrians. Deaths fell 37 percent, from 7,516 in 1975 to 4,735 in 2013. During the same time, all other motor vehicle deaths fell 24 percent.

Since 2009, when pedestrian deaths hit a low of 4,109, they have risen a bit, however.

But while pedestrian fatalities involving a child fell from 21 percent of all deaths in 1975 to 4 percent in 2013, the rate for those aged 20 to 69 increased by 28 percentage points. Overall 7 in 10 fatalities were men, many of whom were struck at night and in the fall and winter months, according to the GHSA.

Further, alcohol was a factor in many of these crashes. In 2013, 36 percent of pedestrians aged 16 or older involved in fatal car crashes had a blood alcohol level of 0.8 or higher.

States with the biggest increase in pedestrian deaths

Fatalities
January-June 2013 January-June 2014 Change
Florida 242 292 +50
Pennsylvania 53 74 +21
Michigan 47 66 +19
Utah 9 21 +12
Washington 20 31 +11

States with the biggest decrease in pedestrian deaths

Fatalities
January-June 2013 January-June 2014 Change
California 315 250 -65
New York 156 112 -44
Georgia 76 50 -26
Texas 247 231 -16
Mississippi 18 6 -12

Source: Governors Highway Safety Association

Where most fatalities occur

It should come as no surprise that the majority of pedestrian deaths occur in states with large populations and large metro areas. What’s striking, though, is how concentrated the fatalities are. Just four states — California, Florida, New York and Texas — accounted for 43 percent of all pedestrian deaths in 2013. Meanwhile, Delaware and Florida had the highest rates of pedestrian deaths per 100,000 residents, the GHSA said.

Automakers are building cars that are smarter, including one that can help prevent pedestrian deaths. Read about it in Car safety technology of the future.

Tara Baukus Mello writes the cars blog as well as the weekly Driving for Dollars column, providing both practical financial advice for consumers as well as insight into the latest developments in the automotive world. Follow her on Facebook here or on Twitter @SheDrives.