Detroit's Dangerously High Pedestrian Death Rate

In Detroit, cars are not just a mode of transportation; cars go beyond a hobby, or general interest. Here, they are a way of life. Two of the big three automobile manufacturers have their headquarters in the Motor City, along with many major auto suppliers. Later this summer, thousands of classic and modern cars will be cruising the Woodward Dream Cruise. Simply put, Detroiters love cars!

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While motor vehicles are often the center of attention, it’s become clear that the city also needs to pay attention to pedestrians. According to the Detroit Free Press, in the US in 2016 there were nearly 6,000 pedestrian fatalities, 29 of which took place in the City of Detroit. This number may seem insignificant, yet Detroit received the, “highest per-capita pedestrian death rate - 34.5 per 100,000 residents - in the nation for large cities in 2010-2016.”

Pedestrian fatalities in Detroit differed in several ways from pedestrian fatalities that took place in other cities. Between 2009-2016, only 6% of Detroit pedestrians were under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of their deaths, which is 30% lower than the nationwide percentage. Also in Detroit, within the same time period, 80% of pedestrians were struck “after dark,” versus 72% across the US. Similarities do exist between Detroit and the rest of the country in terms of pedestrian fatalities, such as the gender of the individual who lost their life, and the location of the car crash. Males accounted for 73% of pedestrian deaths between 2009-2016, and male or female, the fatalities occurred 77% of the time at non-intersection locations. Nationwide, as well as in Detroit, pedestrians killed were, on average, 49 years old.

The statistics relating to hit and run pedestrian car crashes also are a cause for concern for Detroit. Nationwide, hit and run car crashes made up 18% of all car crashes between 2009-2016. In Detroit, hit and run car accidents were an alarming 46% of of all car accidents,  32% higher than the national average!

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In light of these shocking pedestrian car crash fatality statistics, action has been taken to help make the city safer for those traveling by foot. Recently, Woodward Avenue at Jefferson Avenue was closed and a pedestrian plaza was added. Lanes were removed from East Jefferson Ave. to Grosse Pointe Park, and in its place, “bike lanes and pedestrian infrastructure” were added. To help prevent the prominent concern of pedestrian deaths taking place at night, 60,000 street lights were installed. Over the course of the next few years, Detroit will also be fixing approximately 125,000 run-down sidewalks.

Detroiters should note that city officials are mindful of all the pedestrian fatalities occurring in the area. Detroit’s Department of Public Works investigates pedestrian car crashes, and from their analysis, looks into what could prevent pedestrian car accidents from occuring. The Department’s staff also improves crosswalks by adding, “crosswalk signs and inspect[ing] pedestrian crossing signals for proper timing and display.”

The issue of pedestrian deaths is highly complex and has no simple answers. The main dilemma is that most Detroit roads were built with cars in mind, putting pedestrians at a disadvantage. Because of the existing infrastructure, individuals traveling by foot or bike are forced to take road navigation risks, and may attempt to cross a street where it is not safe to do so. The biker or walker may believe they can beat traffic, but the odds of beating a car are not in their favor. It’s clear that even more changes need to be implemented in the city, including at the very least, additional crosswalks and stop lights. When out and about in Detroit, pedestrians should be able to conveniently get where they need go, without having to fear for their lives.


When an automobile accident occurs between a vehicle and a pedestrian, the pedestrian is substantially more vulnerable than the driver. After all, there’s no comparison between one individual and a 4,000 pound car. Detroiters who commonly ride their bikes or walk around the city should locate and use designated crosswalks, as well as be on alert whenever they are in the path of any vehicle. The Michigan Law Firm, PC understands how devastating pedestrian car accidents can be. Our experienced attorneys are here to help car accident victims with their legal burdens so they can focus on taking care of themselves. For a free legal consultation, call us today at 844.4MI.FIRM.