Pedestrian Accidents – and How to Avoid Them

Rising Rate of Pedestrian Accidents

The Governors Highway Safety Association recently reported a 22% increase between 2014 and 2016 in the number of pedestrian deaths caused by motor vehicles, despite improvements in vehicle safety equipment nationwide. Last year was the deadliest year for pedestrians, with 5997 fatalities, an 11% increase over 2015 and the largest since data on such statistics began. As a pedestrian, you are 1.5 times more likely to be killed in a car crash than the vehicle’s occupants.

Even if you follow all the rules, obey traffic signals, and stay on the sidewalk, there is no way to predict the actions of drivers on the road. Most pedestrian accidents are caused by the motor vehicle driver, although an increasing number of pedestrians are becoming victims as a result of their cell phone use or other distractions. Driver negligence, substance abuse, aggressive driving, and unsafe speeds are the most common causes for the rising rate of accidents. In 2015, an estimated 70,000 people were injured in crashes, most occurring in urban areas. Pedestrian safety is clearly a growing concern across the country.

Which Pedestrians Are Most at Risk?

While everyone who walks down a street or road in an urban area takes a risk, certain groups of people are more likely than others to be involved in a pedestrian accident.

The Elderly: As we age, we don’t move as fast as we did in our youth. This unfortunate reality is evident in the statistics on accidents involving elderly pedestrians, which accounted for 19% of fatalities and 13% of all pedestrian injuries in 2015.

Children: In the same year, one in five children killed in traffic accidents were pedestrians under 15 years old.

Substance-impaired: Alcohol consumption, on the part of either or both the pedestrian and the motorist, was responsible for 48% of pedestrian deaths in 2015.

Your risk of being hit by a motorist increases at night when visibility is reduced and it is harder for the driver to see you. Risks also increase if you attempt to cross the road at non-intersections or walk in the street instead of on the sidewalks. You can reduce your risks by following a few simple suggestions and by being more aware of your surroundings as you enjoy your walk.

Tips to Avoid Being a Pedestrian Statistic

  1. Stay on designated walkways: Walk on the sidewalk or within a cross-walk whenever possible. If it’s not possible, walk FACING on-coming traffic and as far to the left as possible. Note: this does not apply to bicyclists, who should be traveling WITH the flow of traffic and not against it.
  2. Avoid distractions: Take off headphones and put away that cell phone. Many pedestrians have walked right into an oncoming car because they were looking at their phone instead of at the traffic. Be aware of your surroundings – you may not hear a warning car horn if you’re listening to music instead of to the sounds around you.
  3. LOOK! When you are crossing the street, look left and right, then left again. Don’t neglect to watch for turning cars in an intersection. Studies have shown the most common maneuver a motorist makes BEFORE striking a pedestrian is a left or right turn, backing up, or making U-turns. This is particularly true in states where drivers are permitted to turn right on a red light or turn left where there is no left-turn arrow.
  4. Be Visible: If you are entering the intersection from a blind spot (between parked cars, near a bus, food truck, ice cream vendor, etc.), be extra cautious – if you can’t see the motorist, chances are pretty good they can’t see you either. If you’re walking at night, wear reflective clothing and carry a flashlight.
  5. Watch for Passing Vehicles: You may be clear for the first lane of traffic but an impatient driver in the second lane could be your undoing.
  6. Avoid the “Dash”: Yes, we all think we can “make it” through the intersection before that oncoming car gets there. But what if you trip? Or drop your bag? Any number of things can prevent you from getting there first. Don’t take the chance – wait for clear passage and stay safe.

Be a Pedestrian-Friendly Driver

Any discussion of pedestrian safety must also include drivers – it is our responsibility when operating a motor vehicle to seek to reduce damage and death to ourselves and to others. This means being extra attentive to pedestrians on the roads, in parking lots, intersections, and school zones in particular. Keep in mind that, though you may hold the legal right of way, your first rule, just like in driving, is to yield the right of way to avoid a collision. Even if the pedestrian is breaking the law, it is not your responsibility to help them learn a lesson. Using common courtesy, being especially cautious, and paying attention will help us to share the road successfully with our pedestrian friends.

If You’re Hit …

If caution fails and you or a loved one becomes a pedestrian accident victim, follow the basic rules below.

Don’t leave the scene: If possible, stay calm and move out of the street. Assuming you’re conscious, you may be feeling rage, shock, and confusion. While understandable, you need your wits about you at this emotional time. Try to maintain your equilibrium.

Keep the driver at the scene: Again, this depends on a lot of things – did the driver stop? If not, and if you are able, try to make a mental note of the type/make of vehicle, color, and if at all possible, license plate. Even if you think you’re uninjured, you may find later that you’ve been hurt and weren’t aware.