This story is part of CT Mirror Explains, an ongoing effort to distill our wide-ranging reporting into a "what you need to know" format. To dive deeper on any element of this topic, use the links in the story.
Original reporting by Dave Altimari, Katy Golvala and Nicole McIsaac. Compiled by Nicole McIsaac.
In Connecticut, the number of pedestrians struck and killed by cars has more than doubled over the past 10 years.
State officials and advocates for pedestrian safety attribute the rise in pedestrian deaths to a combination of larger and heavier cars, higher speeds and distracted drivers.
Although state lawmakers have taken steps to address the issue, the number of deaths is still climbing, and 2022 is on pace to be another deadly year for pedestrians in the state.
Here’s what you need to know.
How often are pedestrian deaths occurring in CT?
Pedestrian deaths are increasing and the pandemic did not slow the rise.
From 2010 through 2015, there were fewer than 50 pedestrian fatalities a year. Every year since then has seen more than 50, with highs of 65 fatalities in 2016 and 2021.
Pedestrian and cyclist fatalities are hovering at 30-year highs. In 2020, Connecticut ranked 13th in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s listing of states’ pedestrian fatality rates.
An analysis of pedestrian deaths over the past five years shows that most of them occur in urban settings along major roadways or in municipalities with state roads that run through them.
What is causing the surge in CT pedestrian deaths?
Connecticut’s Department of Transportation officials and advocates for improving roads for biking and walking agree on the causes.
Both groups believe the increase in pedestrian deaths stem from larger and heavier vehicles that are driving faster and more recklessly on roads that aren't designed for increased pedestrian traffic. Advocates and officials attribute the uptick in reckless driving to less fear of being pulled over, especially during the pandemic.
A spokesperson for the state Department of Transportation said research shows that if a pedestrian gets hit by a car going 20 mph, nine out of 10 pedestrians will survive. If that car is going 40 mph, only one out of 10 pedestrians will survive.
If that car is an SUV or a truck, much more likely now than 10 years ago, the injuries are likely worse.
What are state officials doing to increase pedestrian safety in CT?
Public officials are aware of the problem and have taken some steps to try to curb the trend.
The DOT's Community Connectivity Grant Program, designed to “improve the safety and accessibility for bicyclists and pedestrians in urban, suburban and rural community centers," started in 2018, and nearly $30 million in funding has gone to 79 cities and towns.
Gov. Ned Lamont allotted an additional $12 million for the program in February.
The projects already funded include:
- $400,000 to improve the area around Ferry Street and Water Street in New London, where the train station and Block Island Ferry terminal are located
- $395,000 to update the Quinebaug River Trail in Killingly
- $377,000 to improve the bike trails and walkways around the entrance to Central Connecticut State University in New Britain
- $224,000 to put in new sidewalks on Route 1 in Old Saybrook
But is that enough to solve the problem?
No matter how many sidewalks get installed or bike trails linked, the ultimate question will be how far the state will go to make roads less "car-centric" and more tailored to pedestrians and bikers.
Where do things stand now? There are different messages, even among state agencies.
While DOT is promoting bike lanes and sidewalks, for example, the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection is pushing electric cars — which are heavier than internal combustion cars and can accelerate faster.
Meanwhile, advocates are urging officials to limit parking in areas and close certain streets to cars to create a more pedestrian- and bike-friendly environment.