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Pedestrian and cyclist deaths are rising even as overall traffic fatalities are on the decline

Although fatalities from traffic accidents in the US are going down, safety for pedestrians and cyclists is not keeping up.

Highway deaths are declining, according to a new report released Tuesday by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Last year saw a 2.4% decline in overall fatalities — the second consecutive year of reduced crash deaths.

And that’s not all. Alcohol-impaired driving fatalities, speeding-related fatalities, motorcyclist fatalities and fatalities among children all went down, too.

The report says these declines may be due to better technology in newer cars. But it’s a stark contrast to the numbers surrounding pedestrian and cyclist deaths, which have both seen an increase since 2017.

Pedestrians saw 208 more fatalities in 2018 than the previous year — an increase of 3.4%. Cyclists, meanwhile, saw a 6.3% increase, with 51 more fatalities, according to the report.

That’s concerning, said Rebecca Serna, executive director of Atlanta Bicycle Coalition, a nonprofit meant to make the Atlanta area more bike-friendly.

“We should not lose anyone just trying to get places,” she told CNN. “People’s lives are out there on the line every day, unnecessarily.”

The report comes just a few months after the nonprofit Governors Highway Safety Association declared 2018 the deadliest year for pedestrians in three decades.

Most fatalities happen at night

The report went on to say that most fatalities for pedestrians and cyclists occur after dark — 76% for pedestrians and 50% for cyclists. Further, 38% of pedestrians and 26% of cyclists had some alcohol in their systems.

But Serna said these numbers don’t excuse the damage done. Well-lit streets are an obvious fix, and victims shouldn’t be blamed for getting injured or killed, she said.

“No one decision that a person makes should lead to them losing their lives,” she said.

“People aren’t perfect,” she added. But she said cities should make conditions safer for those walking or otherwise not in vehicles — by imposing lower speed limits, for example.

“Let’s make that crash happen at a low enough speed so that no one dies,” she said.

And lowering speed limits is just one way to improve safety, Serna said. Others include adding concrete islands, giving pedestrians a few seconds head start for crossing streets (so they don’t get hit by turning cars), and more blinking-light crosswalks (as opposed to just painted lines).

CNN has reached out to the NHTSA to elaborate on the data.