Posted by Cederberg Law Firm P.C. on 03/25/2016

Recent Surge in Pedestrian Accidents Presents Growing Public Threat, Report Reveals

Recent Surge in Pedestrian Accidents Presents Growing Public Threat, Report Reveals

In 2015, pedestrian accidents increased sharply, jumping up roughly 10 percent when compared to the number of recorded pedestrian accidents for the previous year. This is according to a recent report1 compiled by the Governor’s Highway Safety Association (GHSA), which has generally revealed that pedestrian accidents appear to be an increasing threat to the public – and that promoting pedestrian safety should be a priority for federal and state transportation authorities.

Elucidating these findings and issues, Richard Retting, co-author of the study, has explained that:

We are projecting the largest year-to-year increase in pedestrian  fatalities since national records have been kept, and therefore we are quite  alarmed…Pedestrian safety is clearly a  growing problem across the country. It is important to understand the data  underlying these crashes so states and localities can apply the right mix of  engineering, education and enforcement to counteract this troubling trend.

In light of this study’s findings – and the fact that fatal pedestrian accidents in Colorado surged about 7 percent in 20151, below are some of the most important facts to understand about pedestrian accidents, as well as their prevalence, causes, victims and impacts.

Crucial Facts to  Understand about Pedestrian Accidents in the U.S.

1.  Pedestrian  accidents have been steadily increasing over the past few years2 – Although the overall number of traffic accidents involving only motor vehicles has been decreasing over the past few years, tragically, the number of pedestrian accidents (over this same period of time) has been increasing. In fact, federal data indicates that, over the previous three or so years, the number of pedestrian accidents that have occurred on U.S. roadways has increased by approximately 4 percent.

This effectively means that:

  • Every 8 minutes or so, someone in the U.S. is hurt in a pedestrian accident.
  • Every 2 hours or so, someone in the U.S. is killed in a pedestrian accident.
  • Pedestrians are about 1.5 times more likely than the occupants of passenger vehicles to sustain fatal injuries every time they embark on a trip. 3

Additionally, federal data also reveals that pedestrian accidents are most likely to occur in cities (i.e., urban areas) at nighttime and at locations other than intersections (i.e., in areas that lack signals to facilitate the flow of traffic/the movement of pedestrians).


2.  Pedestrian  accidents can result in serious, catastrophic injuries even when motorists are traveling  at relatively slow speeds – In fact, even at traveling at speeds as low as 10 miles per hour (mph) prior to a crash, a standard passenger vehicle can severely harm a pedestrian. This is generally due to the facts that:

  • There is a dramatic weight discrepancy between motor vehicles and people. This discrepancy can end up generating a huge force upon impact, possibly throwing people multiple feet away from the point of impact.
  • Pedestrians completely lack of protection these crashes, as they do not have a vehicle frame and/or safety equipment to help absorb the force or protect them from it. This can ultimately means that pedestrians’ bodies end up taking the full force of the impact.

When vehicle speeds increase to about 30 mph, a crash with a pedestrian accident is far more likely to result in deadly injuries.


3.  Young  children and the elderly are most often the victims of pedestrian accidents – The people who tend to be most vulnerable to being injured or killed in pedestrian accidents are most often those who generally are more vulnerable to other risks or dangers – namely, young children and older adults. In fact, as federal data indicates:

  • Approximately 11 percent of all of the people killed in pedestrian accidents are children who are 14 years old and younger.
  • About 20 percent of the children involved in fatal pedestrian accidents were between the ages of 5 and 9 years old.
  • People who were 65 years old and older were involved in about 11 percent of all pedestrian accidents resulting in injuries and in nearly 20 percent of all fatal pedestrian accidents.

For children, one of the major contributing factors to their risk of pedestrian accidents is a lack of knowledge about traffic laws and pedestrian safety. For aging adults, their biggest risk tends to come in the form of perception impairments (such as deteriorating hearing and/or vision), as well as mobility limitations.


4.  Fatal  pedestrian accidents often involve alcohol impairment – In fact, about 47 percent of all fatal pedestrian accidents involve alcohol impairment (i.e., at least one involved party having a BAC of at least 0.08). While intoxicated pedestrians are reportedly involved in about 34 percent of all deadly pedestrian accidents, drunk motorists have been found to cause about 15 percent of these fatal accidents. 

Alcohol impairment is so often a factor in these types of accidents because, when drivers and/or pedestrians are intoxicated, they are far more likely to:

  • Overlook or misjudge the pace of oncoming traffic and/or pedestrians crossing the street (especially when visibility may be poor because it’s nighttime and/or when pedestrians may be harder to see because, for instance, they are small children)
  • Delayed reaction times, which can mean that motorists and/or pedestrians don’t notice significant crash risks until it’s too late to avoid them
  • Engage in other reckless behaviors – This can include (but may not be limited to) violating other traffic laws by, for instance, speeding (for motorists) or jaywalking (for pedestrians).


5.  Distraction  also contributes to many pedestrian accidents – And, increasingly these days, the source of distraction – for both motorists and pedestrians – is the use of cellphones, which can prevent roadway travelers from perceiving a significant portion of their environment.

In fact, using cellphones when driving or even walking along the road can result in people overlooking as much as 50 percent of their environments (due to a phenomenon known as inattention blindness).This, along with the above fact about pedestrian accidents, highlights just how often human errors and oversights contribute to these accidents. And that suggests that, in many cases, pedestrian accidents could be preventable if drivers and pedestrians were sober, focused and committed to making safe choices when sharing the roads with others.


6.  About 1  in every 5 fatal pedestrian accidents involves a hit-and-run – While motorists involved in pedestrian accidents may flee the scene of the crash for any number of reasons – including out of shear panic, in many cases, the motivation for fleeing arises from motorists knowing that their risky (and possibly illegal) actions contributed to the crash. This fact, again, highlights the theme of human error causing pedestrian accidents, injuries and deaths.


7.  Daylight  savings time has been correlated with declines in pedestrian accidents – In general, warmer weather and longer daylight hours generally correlate with increases in traffic crashes, as more motorists and other travelers (like pedestrians) tend to hit the roads as weather conditions become more favorable (and daylight hours extend for longer). Interestingly, however, daylight savings time (DST) has actually been found to contribute to a decline in pedestrian accidents.

That’s because, as federal data and some research has revealed5:

  • Most pedestrian accidents tend to occur during dusk and evening hours, with more than 1 in every 4 pedestrian accidents occurring between the hours of 6pm to 9pm.
  • During dusk and earlier evening hours, motorists may still drive as though it were light outside, traveling at faster speeds and not being as vigilant or careful about monitoring their surroundings.
  • If even just one more hour of daylight were added to each day (year-round), at least 170 deadly pedestrian accidents could be prevented every year. This is largely tied to the fact that an additional hour of daylight could improve visibility during one of the riskiest times for these accidents (i.e., dusk and early evening hours).


8.  Although  the impacts of pedestrian accidents can be catastrophic, victims may have  various options for recovery and justice – This fact may, perhaps, be one of the most important takeaways for the survivors of pedestrian accidents, including families who have lost a loved one to a fatal pedestrian accident.

While no amount of money can ever make up for the irreversible impairments or the loss of a loved one due to a pedestrian accident, pursuing a civil claim can be integral to helping survivors obtain some sense of justice – and to providing them with financial recoveries that can crucial to their overall recoveries. Those who do have the courage to pursue a case may be able to secure compensation that includes (but is not limited to) damages for past and future medical bills, lost wages, and mental suffering.


Full Disclosure

The information in this article is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice.

If you happen to be injured in a pedestrian accident – or any type of traffic collision – in Denver or Boulder, Colorado you are invited to contact the Cederberg Law Firm for more information about your rights and options for recovery.


References

1: GHSA’s report entitled Spotlight on Highway Safety - http://www.ghsa.org/html/publications/spotlight/peds2015.html

2: NHTSA’s Traffic Fact Sheet about Pedestrian Accidents - http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/812124.pdf

3: According to the NHTSA- http://www.nhtsa.gov/Pedestrians

4: Understanding the Distracted Brain, 2010 - https://www.fnal.gov/pub/traffic_safety/files/NSC%20White%20Paper%20-%20Distracted%20Driving%203-10.pdf

5: The Accident Analysis & Prevention Report, 2004 - http://www.its.uci.edu/its/personnel/recker/A75.pdf

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