As cars get safer for drivers and passengers, pedestrians are as vulnerable as ever to driver negligence or error as well as their own inattention to what's going on around them. In 2017, pedestrian deaths continued to be at their highest rate in 25 years -- for two years in a row.

The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) reported 6,000 pedestrian fatalities last year. Over the past decade, they've risen by 27 percent, and comprise an increasingly large percentage of the deaths caused by motor vehicles.

Who Is Most at Risk?

The increase, however, was not uniform throughout the country. It was seen in just about half of all states plus Washington. D.C. Interestingly 43 percent of pedestrian fatalities in the first half of last year occurred in only five states. Another study, by Smart Growth America, found that eight out of the ten most dangerous cities for pedestrians were in one of these states -- Florida.

Further, as National Public Radio reported, "People of color are over-represented among those pedestrians killed. In North Dakota, for example, Native Americans account for over a third of pedestrian fatalities, even though they make up just 5 percent of the state's population.

The GHSA study, which didn't differentiate by race, found that elderly people and children are "especially vulnerable." So are the poor and people who don't have health insurance.

What's Causing the Increase?

Researchers have hypothesized several factors that could be responsible for the rise in pedestrian deaths. One is the increasing use of smartphones and other electronic devices, both by drivers and pedestrians. Another is the resurgence of the economy since the crisis a decade ago, which has put more cars on the road.

Drugs and alcohol can also be a factor -- not just when a driver is under the influence, but when a pedestrian is. The GHSA study found that a third of pedestrians who were killed in crashes had a blood alcohol limit over what is legal for a driver. It was noted in the report that in the states where recreational marijuana was legal in 2017, pedestrian fatalities rose, on average, by 16.4 percent over the previous year. However, the GHSA said that there was no "definitive link" between the legalization of marijuana and an increase in pedestrian deaths.

If you or a loved one has been injured by a driver while walking, the medical bills, lost wages and other financial impacts can be impossible for a family to bear. That's why it's important to seek guidance from an experienced car accident attorney to determine your legal options for seeking compensation from an at-fault driver.