Dead Pedestrians and Podcasts

Crime scene, do not cross police tape. Chalk outline circles a human body from a murder or traffic accident, with numbered marks near the evidence

I admit to being unusual in that I like to work out while listening to podcasts, the nerdier the better. While most people like to blast Metallica, Foo Fighters, or pop hits from Taylor Swift, I generally don’t listen to music when I work out (and I never listen to anything when I ride outside, so I can hear road noise and be aware of my environment).

Granted, as a former Spin instructor, I can and have worked out to music. And it’s a rule that I must play “Low” by Cracker before every bike race I do. Works for me. I just prefer a good story to music.

Recently, I listened to an episode of Freakonomics about why America is so “good” at killing pedestrians. . It explored why we ARE so good at killing pedestrians. Many of the reasons are counterintuitive and interesting. Let’s explore them below.

Dead Pedestrians—Four Main Reasons

The podcast explored four major reasons why the United States has so many more pedestrian deaths than most other high-income places, like northern and western Europe, Canada, and Japan.

  • We drive large vehicles, often SUVs, which are becoming increasingly large (and, as I noted in an earlier blog post, electric vehicles are much heavier than gas-powered ones)
  • There is more driving than walking in most places.
  • Drivers are distracted (so are pedestrians, mesmerized by their smartphones). Drivers have multiple screens in their vehicles, an overload of information, and even voice commands are shown to take our attention away from driving to a dangerous degree.
  • People are moving away from older cities with narrower (slower) streets and to areas with faster speed limits.
  • Speed limits are another factor. Speed limits are often tailored to the speed at which people drive rather than the speed that would be safest for pedestrians and drivers. The “85th Percentile Rule” essentially adapts speed limits to what the 85th percentile of drivers is actually driving. A road may be best served by a 30 mph limit but if 85 percent of drivers are going 37, the limit may very well be 35 or 40.

Another observation of the podcast, and anecdotally by yours truly, is that since the pandemic, when there were fewer vehicles on the road, drivers are driving in a more aggressive and angry manner. People just seem to be in a hurry, or frustrated, or otherwise not concerned about others as much as before.

How This All Comes into Play

First of all, in this country, the primary user of roads is deemed to be the automobile. Almost all urban planning, road use planning, traffic control devices, and the like, are set to accommodate the driver rather than pedestrians. Things that would slow speeds in most places in, say, Europe, like narrow cobblestone roads, traffic circles, winding roads, and roads deemed to be shared by pedestrians and vehicles, generally do not exist here.

Second, because of the “supremacy” of drivers, pedestrian deaths are rarely punished to any serious extent, since even the police often fall into the trap of blaming the pedestrian killed or excusing the driver. Courts often dole out lenient sentences to drivers who have killed pedestrians.

Third, those giant SUVs we drive are much deadlier than smaller cars. If you are a pedestrian and you get hit by a super-sized vehicle going at a high speed, you are much more likely to die.

Fourth, stick shift, or manual transmission vehicles, are a guarantee the driver won’t be texting and will be paying close attention to the road (and pedestrians). These are much more common in Europe and other parts of the world than in the U.S. (Both my wife and I had manual vehicles when we met. It is a great way to make the driver focus on driving!).

Driving Safer

The best ways to stop killing pedestrians are to drive slower, pay full attention to the road (even avoiding voice command phone calls!), look for and expect pedestrians and cyclists, and operate smaller vehicles.

If you want to purchase a manual transmission vehicle, assuming you can find one, do so. It not only forces the driver to pay full attention, it is also virtually theft-proof, since not too many car thieves are adept at driving stick shift!

Don’t drive as if you are the only one on the road. Expect to see pedestrians, children darting out, bicycles, scooters, and animals.


  • Drivers are driving faster, more aggressively, and increasingly larger vehicles
  • Drivers (and pedestrians) are more distracted than ever
  • Pedestrian deaths are far more likely in this country than most other places
  • American roads are designed to accommodate drivers rather than pedestrians

Contact Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer Stephen Hoffman

As in all cases involving injury, dog bites or injuries, workers’ compensation, medical malpractice, or other injury and potential liability, if you have been hit by a vehicle, immediately get medical treatment, report the crash to police and your own insurance company, and contact a lawyer with expertise in your type of case, such as bicycle accidents or pedestrians hit by cars.

If you've been in an accident and have questions, contact Chicago personal injury attorney Stephen L. Hoffman for a free consultation at (773) 944-9737. Stephen has over 30 years of legal experience and has collected millions of dollars for his clients. He is listed as a SuperLawyer, has a 10.0 rating on Avvo, and is BBB A+ accredited. He is also an Executive Level Member of the Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce.

Stephen handles personal injury claims on a contingency fee basis, which means you don’t pay anything up front, and he only gets paid if you do. Don’t wait another day; contact Stephen now.