Almost 6,000 pedestrians — people out walking after dinner, rushing to get to work, hurrying to cross a street, even in a crosswalk — were killed by motor vehicles on or along America’s streets and roads in 2016, the latest year for which numbers are available. That’s an increase of 50% just since 2009.

Pedestrian crashes have become both deadlier and more frequent. Data and safety experts have determined that long-standing common factors in pedestrian deaths, such as alcohol and jaywalking at night, do not account for the rise in the number of deaths. What, then, could be causing the increase? A Detroit Free Press/USA Today Network investigation found that the “SUV revolution” is the key. Since 2014, SUVs — Sport Utility Vehicles — have become the best-selling vehicles in the U.S. Together with pickup trucks, they account for nearly three-quarters of new-vehicle sales. Unfortunately, they are also the leading cause of escalating pedestrian deaths nationwide. A study from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) found that between 2009 and 2016 “fatal single-vehicle crashes involving SUVs increased 81%, more than any other type of vehicle.” “Understanding where, when and how these additional pedestrian crashes are happening can point the way to solutions,” says IIHS President David Harkey. “This analysis tells us that improvements in road design, vehicle design and lighting, and speed limit enforcement all have a role to play in addressing the issue.”

Mark Berg is a former instructor for the AARP Driver Safety Program. His email address is

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