On May 20, the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) released the preliminary pedestrian fatality data for 2020.

Here’s what stands out in the initial report.

  • GHSA is projecting 6,721 pedestrian deaths in 2020, compared to 6,412 fatalities in 2019. That’s a nearly 5% increase.
  • The increase in the fatality rate isn’t just significant: it is the biggest annual jump ever recorded by the organization.
  • Pedestrians accounted for 17% of all traffic deaths in 2019, compared to 13% in 2010.
  • Black, Indigenous, and People of Color are a larger proportion of pedestrian fatalities, compared to  their respective populations.

While the full GHSA report uses data from 2010 on to demonstrate traffic violence trends, the preliminary 2020 data stands out because of the pandemic conditions. As you might expect, fewer people were driving for work or leisure last year.

For statistical analysis, researchers look at vehicle miles traveled (VMT). This number is the total annual miles of vehicle travel, divided by the total population of the area.

In 2020, there was a 13.2% decrease in VMT overall.  Yet, the pedestrian fatality increased by 21% over 2019. That means while there were fewer vehicles on the road, people on foot were more likely to be killed by them.

Pedestrian fatality trend in Washington

The GHSA reports 47 pedestrian fatalities in Washington from January – June 2020.

The Washington State Department of Transportation data shows 104 fatalities for all of 2020.

Injury Type

Pedestrians Fatalities: 104

Suspected Serious Injuries: 307

Suspected Minor Injuries: 658

Possible Injuries: 487

No Apparent Injuries: 77

Total Pedestrians: 1,633

That’s actually slightly higher than GHSA preliminary numbers—which are already up 7% over 2019.

What’s even more troublesome to us are the locations and patterns of these crashes. Anecdotally, our office has seen a big uptick in the number of people hit by a car in a parking lot.

Here’s the WSDOT map of all the pedestrian collisions in Washington last year. The red markers designate fatalities.


And here’s the same map, zoomed in to the Seattle metro area.