2018 Rapid Response Research Project

Explaining the Rise in Pedestrian Fatalities: A Safe Systems Approach

Principal Investigator
Laura Sandt
Highway Safety Research Center
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
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Co-Principal Investigator 
Becky Naumann
Injury Prevention Research Center
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Project Slide Deck


Pedestrian fatalities increased to 5,987 in 2016, compared to 5,495 (2015) and 4,910 (2014), or an increase of 22% in the past 2 years. This is particularly alarming after so many years of decreasing pedestrian fatalities nationwide since the early 1970s.

The purpose of this project is to convene a diverse group of cross-sector experts and examine available data sources to explore the underlying and complex factors driving the national rise in pedestrian deaths and share and develop insights into strategies to prevent pedestrian injuries and deaths.

Through interactive workshops and data review, this project will examine:
(1) the issues driving the rapid increase in pedestrian deaths; 
(2) hypotheses about the problem that deserve further research and exploration; and
(3) potential high-value opportunities that improve pedestrian safety, beyond traditional transportation agency interventions.

Ultimately, this project will inform future efforts to support USDOT, states, and local communities interested in utilizing a broader array of policy levers to advance pedestrian safety goals. The project is also designed to put innovative systems science tools and theory to work, demonstrating a powerful means for examining underlying drivers of complex problems and exploring effective leverage points for interventions.


Project Details

Project Type: Research
Project Status: Active
Start Date: 3-14-2018
End Date: 4-30-2020
Contract Year: 2018, Rapid Response
Total Funding from CSCRS: $53,000
Collaborating Organizations: University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill