When driving on the interstate, people on foot rank among the least likely thing other drivers expect to see. Even so, many reasons exist that may compel someone to walk along or across freeways.
Forbes reports that 800 pedestrians die on interstates and other freeways, each year. This represents a large increase from numbers in 2009. Unfortunately, researchers identify California as the most likely state for freeway pedestrian deaths.
Reasons for freeway use
Of the pedestrians killed, 42% made an attempt to cross the freeway. Surprisingly, only 18% of the pedestrians walked the freeways because of disabled vehicles. Roughly a third of those killed had alcohol levels of 0.08% and higher. While not discussed in the study, many people wander onto freeways intentionally to commit self-injury or suicide.
Why drivers miss them
Aside from the obvious fact that drivers do not typically expect to see pedestrians on the freeway, speed plays a big role. This does not necessarily mean drivers speed above the limit. In fact, researchers found pedestrian deaths occurred more frequently in areas with high posted speed limits, such as over 65 mph. People struck by vehicles traveling at 55 mph or higher have very low likelihoods of survival.
San Diego recently joined Vision2020 to tackle its own pedestrian death problem on and off the freeway. Pedestrian deaths reached 44 in the city for the first half of 2019. Even worse, drivers sped away in six of these cases. The police department shares that drivers face greater risks when they flee the scene, especially when caught. When drivers remain behind, they do not usually face charges in San Diego.