A crosswalk in Simsbury Credit: Christine Stuart / CTNewsJunkie

Connecticut posted the highest rate of pedestrian deaths per capita in New England last year, according to a national study from the Governors Highway Safety Association, which found American pedestrian fatalities at their highest number since 1981.

The study reviewed preliminary statistics from state and federal entities and concluded that 7,508 pedestrians were killed last year. The increase was about 1% over 2021 and was driven by large hikes in deaths recorded in a handful of states, which more than offset declines in 26 states across the country. 

“Every day, 20 people go for a walk and do not return home. These are people living their daily lives – commuting to and from school and work, picking up groceries, walking the dog, getting some exercise – who died suddenly and violently,” Jonathan Adkins, the group’s CEO, said.

Like most of New England, Connecticut was among the 22 states where pedestrian fatalities increased in 2022. The report found 62 fatalities in Connecticut last year, an increase of six over 2021. Vermont reported just seven fatalities, a decline of one, while Rhode Island remained stable at seven. 

Connecticut had the unfortunate distinction of leading the New England region with 1.71 deaths per 100,000 people in 2022. Maine followed next with 1.52 per 100,000 people. 

Although the state has grappled with how to address the rising number of pedestrians killed by cars, the report shows the problem has been more pronounced elsewhere in the country. The study reported that nearby New Jersey experienced 2.05 pedestrian deaths per 100,000 people in 2022. New Mexico led the nation with 4.4 per 100,000. 

Oklahoma was excluded from the study because it reported no statistics for 2022. However, that state has recently averaged about 92 pedestrian deaths per year, according to a press release, meaning last year’s true total could amount to as much as 7,600 nationwide.  

Taken together, the numbers continue to illustrate a rising trend around the country. Since 2010, the number of people killed by cars while on foot has spiked by 77% while the number of other traffic-related deaths have risen slower, at around 25%, according to the release.

“The saddest part is that these crashes are preventable,” Adkins said. “We know what works – better-designed infrastructure, lower speeds, addressing risky driving behaviors that pose a danger to people walking. We must do these things and more to reverse this awful trend and protect people on foot. Enough is enough.”

Policymakers in Connecticut have taken a number of steps in the last several years in an effort to curtail increases in the number of pedestrians and cyclists killed on state roadways as well as other traffic-related fatalities.

Most recently, the governor signed a bill based on the recommendations of the state Vision Zero Council, a multiagency panel headed by the Department of Transportation commissioner and tasked with advancing policies to reduce traffic-related deaths.

The new law will give municipalities an option to employ automated traffic enforcement cameras, provided they receive approval from the Department of Transportation. Other provisions include court-ordered driver safety courses for motorists who contest traffic tickets and studies of the state’s “right turn on red” rule, among other policies.

In recent years, the legislature has also adopted more pedestrian-friendly crosswalk policies and greater flexibility for municipalities to set their own speed limits.