Dr. Kelcie Ralph Interviewed on Freakonomics: Why Is the U.S. So Good at Killing Pedestrians?

July 7, 2023

In 2014, the year we published “The Perfect Crime,” there were just under 5,000 pedestrian deaths in the U.S. Last year: around 7,500 deaths. And it’s not just the raw numbers increasing: the rate of pedestrian deaths per mile driven is the highest in more than 40 years. Even during the pandemic, when driving was way down, pedestrian deaths continued to rise. Among the world’s high-income countries, the U.S. is particularly good at killing pedestrians — the death rate here is much higher than in places like northern and western Europe, Canada, and Japan. So, today on Freakonomics Radio, we’re back at it, with one simple question: why? Why are we a world leader in this terrible statistic?

RALPH: We demand high speeds. We want to get to the places we want to go quickly, in part because Americans drive so many miles a day. The average American spends 55 minutes a day in their car, and we want to get to wherever we’re going quickly. So we have high speeds. We have a lot of cars on the same roadway, and then we have what we call arterial streets. So imagine two or three lanes in each direction, a McDonald’s, a Home Depot, lots of driveways, maybe there’s sidewalks, maybe there’s not. People are pulling in, people are pulling out. You’re going to have crashes there. And in fact, when we do crash hot-spot analysis, these are by far the most dangerous streets in the nation. In most cities, about 80 percent of the crashes occur on about 15 to 20 percent of the roadways.

Listen to the full episode or read the transcript: https://freakonomics.com/podcast/why-is-the-u-s-so-good-at-killing-pedestrians/

Published July 5, 2023.

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