Pedestrian Deaths up 75% in Colorado, 35% Nationally; Smartphones & SUVs Partly to Blame

pedestrian refuge island
Safety advocates say that pedestrian refuge islands like this in Montbello are needed to reduce the number of fatalities on Denver's streets.

Drivers killed 35 percent more pedestrians in the U.S. than they did a decade ago — and in Colorado the number of fatalities grew by an astonishing 75 percent over a similar period.

Colorado drivers killed 89 pedestrians last year compared to 51 in 2009, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation. Nationally, there were 5,977 pedestrian deaths in 2017 compared to 4,414 in 2008, according to the newest Spotlight on Safety report from the Governor’s Highway Safety Administration.

“Crossing the street should not be a death sentence,” said report author Richard Retting in a statement.

u.s. pedestrian fatalities chart
Chart: Governor’s Highway Safety Administration

The report cites several possible reasons for the growing number of fatalities, including population growth, people driving more miles per year, driving at night and the growing popularity of SUVs and smartphones.

To boost safety, Retting suggests that states increase safety education, intensify law enforcement and change road designs.

“It’s crucial to do everything we can to protect pedestrians utilizing a broad approach,” says Retting.

In Denver, a five-year action plan demands many of these measures to fulfill the city’s Vision Zero pledge to end all traffic fatalities by 2030.

Although increased safety education and law enforcement would be welcomed, Jill Locantore, executive director of WalkDenver, says that Denver should focus on upgrading its roads.

“People are going to get distracted,” she said. “We know how to design roads that are forgiving to human beings that get distracted. Let’s design the system so that those mistakes don’t become fatal.”

Some of the street design changes mandated in Denver’s Vision Zero plan include redesigning crosswalks, adding bike lanes and narrowing roads. Locantore offers traffic circles as a possible change to streets that can save lives. If a driver blows through one, there’s a good chance they will run into the circle before a pedestrian, she says.

But such changes are coming too slow, say advocates. When the Denver Streets Partnership evaluated the city’s progress toward its Vision Zero goals in January, Denver earned a “C” on the annual report card.  

Another factor in Colorado’s alarming increase of pedestrian fatalities could be the growing number of Sport Utility Vehicles here. The larger vehicles are more deadly when they hit people, according to the GHSA report.


axios iphone ped fatalities
Graph: Axios.

The report also calls out distracted driving. A graph from news site Axios showed  pedestrian fatalities remained steady for several years — but started shooting up in 2007, when Apple introduced the first iPhone.

In Colorado, state legislators will consider a distracted driving bill later this spring. Last month, a committee in the state house killed another bill that would have banned red light cameras. But Locantore says Denver’s growing population demands more significant changes.

“There’s an influx of people in urban areas,” she said, noting that more people are getting around by walking, biking, and using mass transit. “We’ve got more and more people out walking but the streets are still unsafe.”

  • DJ

    Then why all the focus by Dummycrats of guns??? Does that mean the next TARGET of Dummycrats is SUV’s??? You forgot to put climate change in the story.

    • Max Power

      Actually, the next bill is to ban random CAPITALIZATION and excessive punctuation!!!

      • DJ

        Of course a true Marxist. Control everything, even the climate. So laughable.

        • nutsinavice

          Again with the ad hominem attacks. I guess that’s because you can’t argue against the objective facts about climate change, so you just resort to calling names. Have fun. I guess that’s the least you could get out of all of this.

          • DJ

            Anthropogenic Global Warming is a fraud. Fake, it’s only a wealth transfer mechanism.

          • nutsinavice

            99% of the world’s scientists disagree, along with the facts that you can see with your own eyes. In fact, climate change is the result of a massive wealth transfer to the rich via the fossil fuel industry and plastics. Cement is also a huge contributor.

            Do have any evidence for your assertion? My guess is that you don’t really understand it, which is getting more and more difficult, given the massive amount of information out there. You are either compromised financially or just not paying attention. Are you so ideologically invested that you would put our kids at such great risk?

          • DJ

            99% is a false number. My guess is you are indoctrinated and brainwashed or brain dead.

          • nutsinavice

            See, there you go again. Attacking my character instead of addressing the substance of my point. Here’s a credible source that there is 99% consensus. But even if it were only 90%, that’s still overwhelming. If you are to make an effective argument, you would need to back it up with citations from experts.


            Carry on.

          • DJ

            You’re not going to believe anything I post. I don’t believe your nonsense and I’m not changing my opinion.

            Che Ocasio-Cortez says you only have 12 years to live.

            It’s sun cycles. We are entering a mini ice age which is what they were pushing in 1970. They changed it to Global Warming. Now it’s Global Climate Change. Still the same wealth transfer scheme.

          • DJ
          • nutsinavice

            I googled Prof. Ball and checked him out and found out that he is not a climate scientist, but a geologist pretending to be a climate scientist. He sued some people who called him out and the judge ruled “that Tim Ball is either an incompetent idiot or someone pretending to be an incompetent idiot.”

            As the judge noted, “a reasonably thoughtful and informed person who reads the Article is unlikely to place any stock in Dr. Ball’s views.” That says something about those who do place stock in his views, including the Trump administration, which invited Ball to Washington after the 2016 U.S. election for a briefing with the transition team.

            Judge Skolrood also wrote, “despite Dr. Ball’s history as an academic and a scientist, the Article is rife with errors and inaccuracies, which suggests a lack of attention to detail on Dr. Ball’s part, if not an indifference to the truth.”

            He also lets his “science” be influenced by his funding from oil and gas companies.


            You know, I really wish you were right, but evidence all around us is so overwhelming that not only are the theories about climate change (which have been known since the 19th century) scientifically sound, but the outcomes are happening now, with changes in weather, a warmer climate (none of the places I used to skate on all winter long even freeze hard enough to skate on at all, and look at the changes in the summer temps in Australia and the Middle East- heatwaves beyond precedent).

            Sadly, cherry picking a few cranks funded by oil and gas who spend a lot of time calling people names, doesn’t change reality. I really wish you were right. Go hang out with some real climate scientists (we have quite a few in the area, being home to NOAA, etc.) instead of people who have experience in only tangentially related fields.

          • DJ
    • TakeFive

      The named Red Flag Bill seems like common sense to me. There are a few other things on the agenda though that make my eyes roll.

      • DJ

        Positive rights never make sense when it’s government. These current red flag bills leave out due process. The U.S. Constitution are negative rights, what government shall not do. Red flag gun laws don’t address the real problem, mental health.

        Dummycrats are overreaching on firearms, sex education, emission standards and oil and gas regulations. Same road as 2016. They can’t control emotions and they just can’t help themselves.

        • LennyBasquiat

          You talk about roads and SUVs as though they existed before government, as though it wasn’t government subsidy of driving that brought the prevalence of SUVs to bear. The “right” of the SUV driver is limited by negative externalities. It isn’t a “right” to have street parking, cause sprawl or kill pedestrians. The truck/SUV is about as socialist as it gets.

          • nutsinavice

            DJ is just looking for ways to criticize Democrats and his position is so weak, he has to resort to name calling. It’s called an ad hominem attack. It’s not worth feeding the troll. He is why civility is gone in this country.

          • DJ

            Driving is a privilege. The 2nd Amendment as well as the 1st Amendment which allows your nonsense are RIGHTS.

          • TakeFive

            and both are subject to certain limitations as defined by SCOTUS.

          • DJ


    • mckillio

      It’s as if different people can work on different things and communicate them to others.

      • DJ

        Dummycrats can only work on talking points.

        • peggy6824

          Absolutely! I agree with you.

          • TakeFive

            Conservatives work very hard to accuse their opposites of what they are most guilty of… it’s a common propaganda technique but talking points are popular with both the left and right. But depending on which team you’re on you see and hear what you wish to.

          • peggy6824


            Yes, it is Conservatives who resort to attacking, assaulting, beating, stabbing, shooting, & damaging, destroying, & setting fire to the property of those who don’t share their political views. (sarc)

          • Lauren Bertrand

            While you are largely correct, it takes no effort to find evidence of leftists doing the exact same thing.

  • TakeFive

    Statistical games can be fun. For instance, during the Great Recession years everything was depressed including miles driven etc. If, instead of 2009, you use the year 2012 as a base year then pedestrian deaths are only up fourteen percent. Btw, 2012 also happens to be a year when pedestrian deaths spiked but if my purpose was to present a counter-argument it’s the go-to year to use. 🙂

    • TakeFive

      Also interesting would be this:

      PHOENIX — It’s an event for engineers that features a lot of tech built for transportation solutions: The ITE/IMSA Spring Conference.

      For the first time, organizers brought together professionals to present at what they hope will be an annual Road Safety Forum.

      It was mentioned at the forum that in addition to distracted driving the growing opioid issue added to alcohol is a BIG problem.

  • crazyvag

    Are there any safety crash tests for collisions with pedestrians?

    • LennyBasquiat

      Not in the US, but if we could make that part of vehicle safety ratings it’d be wonderful.

      • crazyvag

        Perhaps tie car insurance to pedestrian safety results too?

  • Jack

    Very mono-perspective… while I have no doubt there are bad drivers and dangerous intersections there are also a significant number of pedestrians with little or no regard for their own self preservation. Trying to engineer or legislate away the need for pedestrians to be cautious is an expensive and foolish errand.

    • TM

      Go fuck yourself

  • PacksA9

    Laws of physics will always trump laws of traffic. What happened to looking both ways before you walk across a street? It’s foolish to think some road paint marking a crosswalk creates a force field that will keep you safe from a moving vehicle.

    There is too much pandering to pedestrians as it is. Don’t cross until it’s clear and all vehicles have stopped or passed.

    • TM

      Suck my dick, asshole.

  • peggy6824

    No mention of marijuana use as a factor??

  • iBikeCommute

    Governor Polis completely missed the point of this post-

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  • Dave

    Rate all cars sold in the US by hazard to other road users. Legalize the vandalism, arson and theft of the worst 25% of those cars. Our whole transportation culture is so biased in favor of private car use that I cannot see putting any responsibility onto pedestrians until we redesign both our streets and our driving laws to tilt things the other way.


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