In 2018, the Governors Highway Safety Association reported that over 6,000 American pedestrians died as a result of traffic accidents. While a lack of pedestrian infrastructure is definitely an endemic problem across the United States, including in California, it is not as though the number of sidewalks and crosswalks has decreased over the past 10 years.
In reality, the culprit behind this drastic increase in pedestrian deaths is likely attributable to more modern causes. According to NPR, it is likely that the increased popularity of SUVs as well as smartphones has caused the increase of pedestrian fatalities over the past decade.
The role of SUVs
SUVs, or sport utility vehicles, have been more popular than regular passenger vehicles since 2013. There are many benefits to sport utility vehicles, including increased amount of space and passenger comfort. However, one of the major drawbacks of SUVs is that they are much more deadly for pedestrians should there be an impact between the vehicle and a pedestrian.
SUVs are bigger and heavier. The same advantages that make them more comfortable for passengers make them much more deadly for pedestrians, whether those pedestrians are walking or on a bicycle.
The role of smartphones
NPR estimates that Walkers and drivers both are using cell phone data at a whopping 4,000% more than they did in 2008. This means that both pedestrians and drivers are not watching the roads as often as they should.
It is likely that autonomous pedestrian sensors on cars will help to solve this problem, but it is unlikely that this will occur anytime soon as most cars on the roads today are at least 10 years old.