Despite far less traffic, more pedestrians died on Connecticut roads in 2020 than a year before; lawmakers are seeking to address the deadly climb

Despite a pandemic-driven reduction in overall traffic last year, pedestrian deaths in Connecticut have continued their deadly climb.

“Not just in Connecticut, but throughout the country, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of pedestrian … fatalities,” said Rep. Roland Lemar, the New Haven Democrat who leads the General Assembly’s transportation committee.

Passing new laws to make the roads safer for walkers, runners and cyclists — including giving towns the ability to lower speed limits on local roads and perhaps raising the fines for distracted driving — is at the top of the transportation committee’s legislative agenda, Lemar said.

Pedestrian deaths have been rising steadily in recent years, but even by that measure, 2020 was exceptionally deadly. According to a preliminary count by the state Department of Transportation, 65 pedestrians died on Connecticut roads last year, an increase of six over 2019.

The pandemic has significantly reduced the number of cars on the roads, and there have been fewer accidents involving pedestrians overall, said Amy Watkins, program manager of Watch For Me CT, a joint effort by the DOT and the Connecticut Children’s Injury Prevention Center to address pedestrian safety.

In 2019, there were 1,568 crashes involving pedestrians; in 2020, the number of accidents involving pedestrians had slipped to 842. “The number of crashes is almost half of what it normally is, but we still have [roughly] the same number of deaths,” Watkins said.

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