01:14 - Source: CNN
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CNN  — 

Pedestrian deaths in the United States last year hit a 30-year high, according to data released Thursday.

And the reason? SUVs, drug and alcohol use, warm weather and cellphones.

That’s according to the Governors Highway Safety Association, a non-profit that works to improve roadway safety. The association released its annual report this month, detailing state and national trends in pedestrian deaths in 2019.

Highest level in more than 30 years, report says

About 6,590 pedestrians were killed in 2019, the highest number since 1988. But along with the large number, pedestrian deaths as a percentage of total traffic deaths was 17% in 2019. The last time the percentage was that high was more than 35 years ago, in 1982.

They’re mainly happening at night, the report said. From 2009 to 2018, nighttime pedestrian deaths went up by 67%. Meanwhile, daytime fatalities went up by 16%.

There are a few reasons for the increase, the report says. One could be warmer weather – which encourages more nighttime outdoor activity and is associated with more drinking, which increases the risk of fatal pedestrian collisions, the study says.

Another could be smartphones, which have also been blamed for everything from poor sleep to social anxiety. The report says they have been a source of cognitive and visual distraction for all road users, pedestrian or otherwise.

SUVs are also an issue. Larger cars have become more popular over the years, and even though more people still die in collisions with passenger cars, pedestrian fatalities involving SUVs have been increasing at a higher rate, the report explains. And, obviously, light trucks – which include SUVs – cause more severe pedestrian impacts than cars.

The report also mentions the decriminalization of marijuana as a possible cause for the higher numbers.

Some states go against national trend

Though the pedestrian fatality data can seem alarming, the GHSA maintains that there is some good to be found.

Six states – Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Mississippi – reported double-digit declines in the number of pedestrian fatalities from the same period in 2018.

Meanwhile, Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Rhode Island and Wisconsin all reported two consecutive years of declines in the number of pedestrian fatalities.