A woman crossing the street on her way home from church on Christmas Eve in South Portland. A man walking along a quiet, two-lane road in Standish. A man wearing a fluorescent vest while walking along Broadway in Bangor.

Their deaths were among the 20 pedestrians hit and killed by vehicles last year in Maine, a number that remains stubbornly high even as the number of people killed in car crashes drops.

Pedestrian deaths have been on the rise in Maine for years, mirroring a national trend that saw the number of people hit and killed by vehicles jump by 77% from 2010 to 2021. Experts say a variety of factors contribute to the deadly crashes, including distracted and impaired drivers, speeding and infrastructure that favors vehicles over pedestrian safety.

“These incidents happen all over Maine. What we find over and over again is it’s really hard to pin it on any one reason,” said Jean Sideris, executive director of the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, which tracks pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities.

In Maine, overall traffic fatalities – including pedestrian deaths – reached a 15-year-high in 2022 with 181 deaths. The state recorded 137 last year, according to preliminary data from the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety. But the number of pedestrians killed by cars has remained relatively consistent over the past five years, averaging about 19 per year – excluding a drop to nine deaths in 2020 when pandemic shutdowns reduced traffic.

“Clearly we have more work to do in this area,” said Nick Brown, a state highway safety coordinator.


More than 7,500 pedestrians were hit and killed in the United States in 2022, the highest number since 1981, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. Data for 2023 is not yet available. More than two-thirds of pedestrian fatalities occur at night, and well over half happen in locations where there is no sidewalk.

An analysis by the association says several factors contributed to the dramatic increase, including more risky driving during the pandemic and lack of enforcement of laws meant to protect pedestrians.

Bystanders and police at the corner of Pleasant Street and Court Street in Auburn on Dec. 8 where a woman was hit by two cars that morning. Russ Dillingham/Sun journal


In Maine, pedestrians are hit on roads all over the state – in cities with sidewalks and marked crosswalks and in rural areas where roads have narrow shoulders and aren’t well-lit. At least one person was killed while crossing a major highway.

Pedestrians were killed in 10 Maine counties last year. Cumberland and York, the most populous counties, recorded five and four deaths, respectively. There were two deaths in both Androscoggin and Kennebec counties. Aroostook, Franklin, Hancock, Lincoln, Oxford and Penobscot counties each had one fatal pedestrian crash.

“These aren’t just numbers, they are people,” Brown said. “These are families and communities that are affected.”


The deadliest day for pedestrians on Maine roads was Aug. 2, when 65-year-old Michael Gilbar and his 15-year-old grandson were hit by a car that veered off Old Falls Road and into Gilbar’s yard in Sanford. Just 45 minutes later, 56-year-old Kimberley Lavin was hit and killed by a dump truck on Water Street in Saco.

Other pedestrians killed by vehicles include William Hood, 54, of Baldwin, who was walking along Manchester Road in Standish in December when he was hit by a driver who police said may have been impaired. A few days later, Matthew Galletta, 55, of Manchester, was hit by a pickup truck while he was in the right lane of Interstate 95 in Augusta.

John McAuliffe holds a photo of his wife, Paula, that she chose for her obituary two weeks before she was killed on Christmas Eve crossing the road in front of her house in South Portland. Sofia Aldinio/ Staff Photographer

In September, 57-year-old Steven Mortimer of Auburn was hit as he crossed Center Street in his wheelchair; he later died at a Lewiston hospital.

And in November, Li Zhen Wu, a 73-year-old grandmother known for collecting returnable bottles in her Saco neighborhood, died after she was hit by a car while she was using a crosswalk near her home.

On Christmas Eve, 71-year-old Paula McAuliffe was killed by a car while crossing Highland Avenue in South Portland on her way home from Christmas Eve Mass at Holy Cross Church. McAuliffe, whose husband of 40 years described her as a “Renaissance woman,” was barely 100 yards from her house when she was hit.

The last pedestrian death in 2023 was on Dec. 28 in Fairfield. Police say 85-year-old Gerald Longstreet was walking across Main Street between two businesses when he was hit by a car.



Last year, 225 people were injured in crashes between pedestrians and vehicles, a slight increase from the 217 injuries reported in 2022, according to the Maine Department of Transportation’s public query crash tool.

Four state troopers were among those injured when they were hit by a driver while they were responding to a call in Hollis. The troopers were standing near a driveway on Route 202 on Aug. 27 when they were hit by a driver who police say was operating recklessly and under the influence. In Auburn, two pedestrians were injured in separate collisions on Dec. 8.

In recent years, the Maine Department of Transportation and Bureau of Highway Safety has focused on identifying high-crash locations, Brown said. The state has used grant funding to create traditional media, social media and YouTube videos to try to educate drivers and reduce the number of deaths and injuries. Often, those messages focus less on numbers and more on the people directly impacted by crashes, he said.

Sideris, from the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, said more needs to be done to build infrastructure that doesn’t just prioritize vehicles. That could mean designing roads to slow down traffic and including safe crossings for pedestrians.

“We have a transportation system that’s really designed to move vehicles quickly rather than move people safely,” she said. “We really need to rethink how we’re doing this and design infrastructure that thinks about all types of users on the roads.”

In the meantime, she said, people need to slow down, drive without distractions and watch for pedestrians and cyclists.

“We train ourselves to look for other vehicles,” she said. “Your brain might honestly not see (pedestrians) because you’re looking for a vehicle. We should really expect to see people on the road.”

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