Skip to Content
Streetsblog New York City home
Streetsblog New York City home
Log In
Hit-and-Run

Hit-and-Run Deaths Are Skyrocketing, and Pedestrians and Cyclists Bear the Brunt

Traffic safety in the U.S. is heading in the wrong direction. Overall traffic fatalities are on the rise, pedestrian deaths are up about 25 percent over the last four years, and increasingly, drivers are striking people and leaving them for dead, according to a new study from the AAA Foundation.

The 2,049 hit-and-run deaths nationwide in 2016 were the most since record-keeping began. And nearly two-thirds of the victims were walking or biking.

Proving that there's no traffic violence trend the national press won't blame on pedestrians and cyclists, the Wall Street Journal covered the report as a warning to bike in bright colors and avoid texting while walking. But if the AAA report is indicative of anything, it's an increasing level of lawlessness on the part of drivers.

Since 2009, hit-and-run fatalities are up 60 percent, the report finds, rising faster than overall traffic deaths. Hit-and-runs now account for a greater share of all traffic fatalities than at any time in the past 12 years. Only about half of hit-and-run drivers who kill are later identified.

The authors aren't sure why fatal hit-and-runs are rising, but as with the general upward trend in traffic deaths, they suspect distracted driving is a factor.

Previous research has shown that hit-and-run drivers tend to have histories of drunk driving and license suspensions, and flee the scene to avoid steeper penalties.

In some states, fear of deportation may play a role. A recent study found that hit-and-runs declined in California after the state allowed undocumented immigrants to hold driver's licenses.

Overall, the AAA report is more evidence that America's traffic safety paradigm is failing. Decades of institutional safety practices that treat superficial symptoms while overlooking the central role of car-centric street design and planning have left the U.S. with a traffic fatality rate far higher than peer nations. Life is cheap on American streets.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog New York City

Thursday’s Headlines: Paris is a Lot Cooler than NYC Edition

The City of Light has figured out how to reduce the heat island effect. Plus other news in today's daily digest.

July 18, 2024

Exclusive: Legal Team Announced for Suit Against Hochul’s Congestion Pricing ‘Pause’

Attorneys from three firms have inked a joint defense agreement to fight "the governor’s illegal decision to cancel congestion pricing," Comptroller Brad Lander said.

July 17, 2024

Brooklyn BP Wants Mayor Adams To Do More To Reduce Parking

Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso's recommendation on City of Yes: Eliminating parking mandates is not enough!

July 17, 2024

Wednesday’s Headlines: Citi Bike By the Numbers Edition

Haters of Citi Bike are really going to detest the new website. Plus other news.

July 17, 2024

Once Again, There is More Evidence that Safer Streets Help Local Business

...and there's more insight into why people simply don't believe it.

July 17, 2024
See all posts