Pedestrian deaths are on the rise in New Jersey and across the U.S., and they have been going up since 2009. According to a study from the Governors Highway Safety Administration, it appears that 2019, the latest year for which traffic death data, though incomplete, exists, did not see any change in the trend.

On the contrary, pedestrian deaths in 2019 went up an estimated 5% from the previous year and a startling 60% from 2009. In all, the GHSA estimates that 6,590 pedestrians died in 2019, compared to 4,109 in 2009. By contrast, other traffic deaths went up 2% between 2009 and 2018.

If accurate, this is the highest number of pedestrian fatalities since 1988. The fatality rate, which comes to 2.0 deaths per 100,000 people, is the highest seen since 1997. Rates were highest in Florida, New Mexico and Hawaii while they were at their lowest in Vermont, Wisconsin and Idaho. Five states accounted for 47% of the fatalities: Florida, Georgia, Texas, Arizona and California.

As for why so many pedestrians are dying, the GHSA gives several possible reasons. One is the increase in drivers who call and text behind the wheel. Another is the growing popularity of SUVs and light trucks, which can leave pedestrians with more severe injuries than if they were hit by a car.

Those who have lost a loved one to a negligent driver may have a case under wrongful death law. In fatal pedestrian accidents, as in other accidents, plaintiffs must prove that the defendant’s negligence was the cause of the death. The driver may have been speeding, driving distracted or breaking another traffic law. The decedent must also be cleared from any wrongdoing. To see if they have a strong case on their hands, families may want to see a lawyer.