Pedestrian accidents can be catastrophic. In a collision between a vehicle and a pedestrian, the vehicle almost always wins. Pedestrians have little to no protection from the damage vehicles can cause—especially in the case of children or seniors, who may be more vulnerable to serious injury.
Unfortunately, you cannot always avoid high-hazard areas where the risk of pedestrian accidents may increase substantially. You can, however, take steps to exercise more caution around those areas, which may help keep you safer.
Nearly 6,000 people die in pedestrian accidents in the U.S. each year.
An estimated 137,000 people receive treatment in emergency rooms for pedestrian accident injuries each year.
Pedestrians are over 1.5 times more likely per trip to die in a car crash than the occupants of passenger vehicles.
Adults over age 65 prove more likely to die in pedestrian accidents: they make up around 10 percent of pedestrian accidents but 20 percent of pedestrian fatalities each year.
Where Do Pedestrian Accidents Occur Most Often?
According to the NHTSA, several factors may increase the risk of pedestrian accidents and fatalities.
On Urban Roadways
Urban roadways often have clear traffic patterns and guidelines that govern where pedestrians should walk, including labeled crosswalks. Unfortunately, urban roads often have more traffic, including both vehicle and pedestrian traffic, and drivers may not exercise an adequate amount of caution when moving around pedestrians. Urban roadways see nearly 2/3 of the pedestrian fatalities that occur each year.
Clearly-marked intersections and pedestrian crossings make it obvious who has the right of way and when a pedestrian might cross the road. Most drivers will pay careful attention to those marked areas. In fact, drivers may already have slowed as they approached the intersection. Unfortunately, drivers may not exercise as much caution in non-intersections. More than 75 percent of pedestrian fatalities occur in areas without clearly marked intersections.
On Roadways Without Crosswalks
According to the NHTSA, around 40 percent of pedestrian fatalities occur in areas without crosswalks. Clearly-marked crosswalks not only tell pedestrians where they can cross most safely, but they also let drivers know that they should expect the presence of a pedestrian in that area.
Thanks to laws that give pedestrians the right of way when they have already entered an intersection, most drivers know that they need to slow down and allow pedestrians to move safely through the area. On the other hand, roadways without crosswalks may make crossing much more difficult. Pedestrians may take more chances because they have a more challenging time getting drivers to come to a stop for them.
Areas without crosswalks may also mean that pedestrians appear in places where drivers do not expect them, increasing the risk of a collision.
Other Factors Impacting the Risk of Pedestrian Accidents
In addition to location, several other factors can increase the risk of a pedestrian accident.
Alcohol consumption poses a serious problem and substantially increases the risk of pedestrian injury. A BAC of at least 0.01 played a factor in approximately 37 percent of pedestrian accidents. Alcohol consumption among drivers also contributed to around 18 percent of pedestrian fatalities.
Many pedestrians do not consider the risks associated with alcohol consumption, particularly if they do not intend to drive. Since they do not plan to drive after drinking, they may assume that they can safely navigate the city. However, alcohol consumption as a pedestrian can pose several problems.
Alcohol naturally interferes with inhibitions and higher-level reasoning skills, which can cause pedestrians to engage in more risky behavior on the road, from running out right in front of a car to ignoring crosswalks. High blood alcohol content can also interfere with motor control, which means pedestrians may stagger unpredictably.
Furthermore, alcohol consumption may interfere with vision and reasoning skills, causing an inebriated pedestrian to miss the presence of a vehicle or fail to note that the light has not changed or that the pedestrian does not have adequate time to cross an intersection.
Time of Day
The NHTSA notes that around 50 percent of pedestrian fatalities occur between 6 p.m. and midnight, and 64 percent occur between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. During these dark hours, pedestrians may be much less visible than they would be during the day, even if they dress appropriately. Many people also struggle with general awareness and function during those hours, which may further increase the risk of a pedestrian accident.
Streetlights and other obvious lighting options may help decrease the risk of pedestrian accidents, but they do not eliminate that risk. Even on roads with clear lighting, pedestrian accidents increase during those evening hours.
According to the NHTSA, pedestrians over the age of 70 account for an estimated 18 percent of pedestrian fatalities each year. Older adults may have a more challenging time getting across intersections in time, which increases their risks.
Children also have an increased risk of a pedestrian accident because they engage in more impulsive behavior than adults. Children are also typically more difficult to see than adults, since their smaller size may allow them to fit in areas where drivers most often cannot see them.
Speeding drivers have a much harder time stopping their vehicles than drivers traveling at a reasonable rate of speed through the same area. Speeding drivers must respond more quickly to potential hazards, including the presence of a pedestrian on the road. Speeding drivers may also have a greater risk of engaging in other reckless behaviors behind the wheel, further increasing the risk of pedestrian accidents.
Unfortunately, speeding may also mean more significant injury potential in an accident since the passenger vehicle may strike the pedestrian with greater overall force.
Distracted drivers may engage in a variety of behaviors that take their eyes, hands, or attention away from the task of driving. Many distracted drivers may assume that they can safely navigate through traffic despite that distraction. In reality, however, they may have a tough time keeping up with what happens around them.
Distracted drivers may have a much harder time noticing pedestrians—especially in non-intersections (where most pedestrian accidents occur). Driver distraction can also become very difficult for pedestrians to note or predict—which means they can do little to avoid the risk of an accident with a distracted driver.
Decreasing the Risks of Pedestrian Accidents
While many pedestrian accidents occur due to driver error, pedestrians can take several steps to help reduce the odds that they will end up involved in a severe accident, and decrease the severity of the injuries they may face if involved in an accident.
1. Follow the laws and rules of the road.
Pedestrians, like drivers, must follow the rules of the road to keep everyone as safe as possible.
Adhere to traffic signals.
Pedestrians must follow the same traffic signals as passenger vehicle drivers in many areas, especially in tightly-packed urban areas. For example, traffic signals may note when pedestrians can cross at a crosswalk. Following those signals makes pedestrian behavior more predictable and decreases the odds that pedestrians will end up involved in a serious accident.
Cross in marked crosswalks when available.
When you, as a pedestrian, have a marked crosswalk, use that area to cross the street safely. Using a marked crosswalk can help keep pedestrians much safer since drivers know to look for them there.
Stick to paths and pedestrian walkways when available.
Some areas, especially rural areas, may not have appropriate pedestrian walkways. However, in the regions that have them, you should stay off of the road and use those paths and walkways, if possible.
2. Avoid public intoxication.
Although walking around while intoxicated may not create the same hazards as driving while intoxicated, it can still pose a potent danger. Intoxicated pedestrians may have difficulty keeping up with what happens around them. They may not realize that they have placed themselves in danger, or they might even take dangerous actions that could increase their risk of a dangerous accident. If you must navigate local streets while intoxicated, make sure you have a sober representative with you who can help keep you safe.
3. Pay attention.
Increasingly, people have their heads down, looking at their phones or other devices, as they walk through the streets. You might find yourself deeply engaged in a conversation with a friend. Or, you might simply allow your mind to wander while you follow familiar streets.
However, failing to pay attention to what takes place around you can pose a substantial hazard. Keep your eyes on the road as a pedestrian just like you would as a driver. Avoid putting yourself in dangerous situations where you have no idea what has happened around you or where you might need to cross.
4. When you do not have an available sidewalk, walk facing traffic.
When you face oncoming traffic, you have a better idea of when a driver might reach you and what steps you need to take to keep yourself safe. If a car pulls up behind you, on the other hand, you might never notice it coming.
5. Wait for traffic to come to a complete stop before trying to cross at a crosswalk.
Never assume that a driver has seen you unless you have seen the driver come to a complete stop or you have received a hand signal letting you know that the driver sees you and will allow you to cross. Eye contact may not offer enough safety since you may not know exactly what the driver has chosen to look at.
6. Cross streets in safe locations whenever possible.
Try to cross the road at an intersection or crosswalk when available. If you cannot find a safe intersection or crosswalk, carefully observe the vehicles around you and wait for a reasonable gap in traffic before attempting to cross. By making sure that you have time to cross safely, you can substantially decrease the risk of a pedestrian accident.
What to Do After a Pedestrian Accident
Despite your precautions, you may, at some point, end up suffering a pedestrian accident—and due to the disparity between pedestrians and passenger vehicles in terms of safety, you may suffer substantial injuries. Act quickly and carefully to protect your health and your right to compensation.
1. Report the accident.
Just as when you get involved in a car accident, you should always report pedestrian accidents, especially if they involve any injury. The NHTSA notes that around one in five pedestrian fatalities involve a hit and run accident. However, even if you are in a hit and run, you should report the accident and let the police know. Often, they can find evidence that will help establish liability for the accident and help you get compensation.
2. Get medical care.
Do not brush off pedestrian accident injuries. The adrenaline rush may make you think you suffered less severe injuries than you actually did. Make sure you receive medical care for any injuries you sustained or may have sustained.
3. Collect evidence.
If you can, snap photos of the accident scene, the vehicle that hit you, and the driver’s license and insurance information. You may also want to take photos of your injuries or collect contact information from witnesses.
4. Call a pedestrian accident lawyer.
Pedestrian accidents often involve significant injuries and substantial compensation amounts. Contact a pedestrian accident lawyer as soon after your accident as possible to learn about your rights.
Dealing with pedestrian accident injuries can become incredibly distressing and challenging. However, you do not have to handle a claim alone. Contact a pedestrian accident lawyer for help with your claim.
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