When a pedestrian is hit by a motor vehicle, he is usually injured or killed; there is no protective cushion to absorb the impact. The high concentration of pedestrians in urban areas, coupled with heavy vehicle traffic, often results in large numbers of pedestrian accidents. In rural areas, there are considerably fewer pedestrians but traffic speeds are higher and, therefore, accidents are more often fatal.

Pedestrian fatalities have increased in the United States from about 7,800 in 1960 to approximately 10,500 in 1973 (1). There are 120,000 pedestrian accidents each year. Total traffic accidents in the US number about 17 million annually with about 56,000 fatalities. Thus, pedestrian accidents account for less than one percent of the total traffic accidents nationwide but over 18 percent of all traffic fatalities. Total accident costs from pedestrian accidents amount to over $1.2 billion annually (using $3,400 per injury and $82,000 per fatality) (2).

In 1973, there were an estimated 1,500 pedestrian accidents in Kentucky in which 167 pedestrians died. This is a pedestrian death rate of 5.2 deaths per 100,000 population compared to the national rate of 5.0 (1). The pedestrian death rate in Kentucky has exceeded the national rate in nine of the last 14 years since 1960. The number of pedestrian deaths in Kentucky has varied between 129 and 167 annually since 1960 (3). Total costs for pedestrian accidents in Kentucky amounted to over $18 million in 1973.

Kentucky is predominantly a rural state. Since 1960, most pedestrian fatalities have occurred in rural areas. However, only 342 pedestrian accidents have occurred annually on the rural state-maintained highway system out of an estimated 1,500 pedestrian accidents in Kentucky in 1973. Nearly 30 percent of all rural pedestrian accidents are fatalities whereas only 4 percent were fatalities in urban areas. There were virtually no property-damage-only pedestrian accidents reported.

To obtain information on rural pedestrian accidents, files of state-police-reported rural accidents for 1972 and 1973 were searched. To study pedestrian accidents in urban areas, data were obtained directly from local police departments of cities -- Louisville, Lexington, Covington, Owensboro, Bowling Green, Paducah, Ashland, Newport, and Frankfort. The populations of these cities range from about 362,000 (Louisville) to about 22,000 (Frankfort). The accident information was analyzed to determine major causes and patterns of pedestrian accidents.

Report Date


Report Number

No. 453

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Accepted for publication by the Transportation Research Board.