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Although a typical car accident can result in severe damage, a car accident involving a pedestrian has a much greater chance of causing a serious injury or fatality. Unlike the driver of a motor vehicle, a pedestrian has no physical barrier or protection. A surprising number of people still use walking as a means of travel. Unfortunately, the moment that a pedestrian takes a step onto a street or crosswalk, the possibility of being involved in a serious or life-threatening accident becomes a reality.
Whether you are walking for fun or walking to work, for recreation or exercise, occupying space with motor vehicles is always a dangerous proposition. Pedestrians represent roughly 13 percent of all motor vehicle-related fatalities every year. This is not surprising when considering that more than ten percent of all travel in the U.S. is still by foot. The bottom line is that walking on streets and roads alongside and in close proximity to motor vehicles is risky, so knowing the facts about pedestrian accidents is important.
The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) reported that close to 8,000 pedestrians in the U.S. died in 2020 from both traffic and non-traffic accidents. These include pedestrians who suffered death from walking on driveways and parking areas to streets and roadways. More than 6,500 pedestrians, however, suffered fatalities in traffic accidents on public roads. By far, this makes walking on public streets and roads the leading cause of pedestrian accidents.
The numbers each year vary only slightly. For instance, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that over 6,200 pedestrians were killed in 2019, with roughly 76,000 pedestrians suffering some sort of injury. These numbers are comparative to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in which they reported that almost 6,000 pedestrians died from traffic accidents in 2017.
Although urban areas house more people, most pedestrian accidents quite surprisingly occur in suburbs, the majority of which happen at night. According to the NHTSA, in 2020, 80 percent of pedestrian accidents resulting in death took place in urban areas. 76 percent of them occurred on open roads compared to only 24 percent that took place at intersections. 76 percent of all pedestrian accidents happened in the dark.
Not surprisingly, over 1,000 pedestrian accident deaths in the same year took place on Saturdays, the majority of which, again, happened in the dark. Sundays are a close second to Saturdays for pedestrian accidents. higher number in suburbs compared to urban areas might be explained by dark roads and higher speeds of travel.
Despite the number of serious injuries and fatalities that result from pedestrian accidents, most people are careful when walking near traffic. Unfortunately, that doesn’t account for the actions of drivers. It would be prudent to first consider that some pedestrian accidents via motor vehicles happen due to carelessness of pedestrians themselves.
Pedestrians who are either under the influence or simply not paying attention often pay the consequences while walking. Drivers face similar consequences, but pedestrian accidents carry with them a much higher chance of serious injury or fatality: pedestrians have zero protection.
Using cellphones accounts for numerous motor vehicle accidents each year. It is no different with pedestrian accidents. Pedestrians are often guilty of cellphone usage when continual concentration is needed to observe traffic and important traffic signals. Whether it is listening to music, texting, or having a conversation with a friend, cell phones inhibit the ability of pedestrians and drivers alike to fully consider their surroundings and avoid a potentially dangerous threat.
Most often, pedestrian accidents occur from driver negligence. Speeding is one of the leading causes of pedestrian accidents. It is difficult for a pedestrian to judge how fast a car is travelling, especially when the car in question is travelling at a high rate of speed. The judgement of a pedestrian is usually not the biggest problem when it comes to speeding cars, but rather the inability of a driver to react in a timely fashion. It is also important to remember that the faster the vehicle, the more chance a pedestrian has of being killed upon impact.
Driving under the influence is never a good idea, but impaired driving is one of the biggest threats to pedestrians. Whether it is alcohol or drugs, impaired drivers are less likely to spot a pedestrian than they are to spot other vehicles. Moreover, impaired drivers with little time to react are usually going to react poorly, and that doesn’t fare well for any pedestrian who unexpectedly walks in their path.
Intersections are notably dangerous because of drivers who either run a stop sign, run a traffic light, or very commonly continue to roll after their initial stop. Pedestrians at intersections are often unaware of the continued movement of vehicles and similarly, drivers are often unaware of pedestrians. Left-hand turns at intersections pose an especially dangerous threat to pedestrians; it is difficult to see a pedestrian while making a left-hand turn if it was not unexpected.
Driver recklessness is a major cause of pedestrian accidents and encompasses several bad actions and habits. Breaking driving laws, which is often the case when being reckless, presents a constant threat to anyone either on the road or to the side. Weaving in and out of traffic, making illegal turns, and disobeying traffic signs are all examples of reckless, illegal driving, each one presenting a particularly high risk to pedestrians.
There are many ways to lower the risk when walking on streets and roads. Make sure you always obey signs and signals. Use crosswalks if available; most drivers are expecting pedestrians to use them. Walk on sidewalks. If no sidewalk is available, walk facing traffic. When crossing an intersection, take the time to look in all directions.
Don’t try to dodge or race traffic; take the time to look for a large gap between vehicles instead. Look out for vehicles entering or exiting roads via ramps. Look out for vehicles quickly entering or exiting parking lots or driveways. Mostly, be aware that some drivers are simply not paying attention. Just as defensive driving is the best policy for motorists, pedestrians are safest when considering all the possibilities.
If you or a loved one was involved in a pedestrian accident, speak with our Wilmington car accident lawyers at Rhoades & Morrow. Our experienced attorneys will fight hard to get you the compensation you deserve. Call us at 302-427-9500 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. With offices in all three counties, we serve clients throughout the state.