Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reveals that pedestrian accidents most often occur in urban areas and locations that are not at intersections. However, some pedestrian accidents also occur at intersections, especially when drivers ignore stop signs or traffic signals because they are distracted or driving recklessly.
If you have suffered injuries in a pedestrian accident, you could be eligible to receive compensation for losses related to the accident and your injuries. Consult an experienced pedestrian accident lawyer who can evaluate your claim and determine your eligibility for compensation. Until you can meet with a pedestrian accident attorney, this post will provide more in-depth information about pedestrian accidents and where they occur most often.
Pedestrians in Urban Areas Face the Highest Risk of Injury
Depending on the year, the NHTSA reports that one pedestrian dies in the United States every 80 to 85 minutes. More than 80 percent of those pedestrian fatalities happen in urban areas. This high number isn’t shocking. Cities have more people and more traffic. With massive amounts of motorists and pedestrians coexisting in a city, it follows that the most pedestrian accidents and fatalities occur in urban areas.
City engineers generally focus on intersections as planned points of conflict between motor vehicles, putting automobile traffic at the forefront of design. Even cities and areas that boast about walkability have streets and roads for truck pickups and deliveries, residents, and customers. Cities have options to make commuting on foot and crossing intersections on foot safer. However, whenever motor vehicles and pedestrians cross paths, pedestrians face impacts that lead to severe and fatal injuries.
Most Pedestrian Accidents Do Not Occur in Intersections
Traffic safety data from the NHTSA consistently shows that about 75 percent of all pedestrian fatalities occur on sections of a road or street without intersections, suggesting intersections are the safest point to cross a road. This data also suggests pedestrians are more likely to suffer injuries while walking alongside motorists on busy city streets.
Intersections, although safer, still see their share of pedestrian accidents and fatalities. Although intersections have signs, traffic signals, and right-of-way protections, the data consistently shows about 15 percent, sometimes more, of fatal pedestrian accidents take place in intersections. Pedestrians must cross paths with motorists at intersections.
If a motorist fails to yield in any of the following situations, pedestrians face severe and fatal injuries:
- A pedestrian crosses in front of a vehicle proceeding straight through an intersection.
- A pedestrian crosses in front of a vehicle turning right on red at an intersection.
- A pedestrian crosses in front of a vehicle that is turning left at an intersection.
Various driving behaviors increase the likelihood of a motorist striking a pedestrian in these situations.
Other Locations Where Pedestrian Accidents Occur
Data from the NHTSA indicates that about 10 percent of the time, severe and fatal pedestrian accidents occur in other locations besides on streets and roads and their intersections. Here are descriptions of how pedestrian accidents occur in some of these locations.
Some pedestrians walk in areas not specifically designated for them, including roadsides or the shoulders of busy streets and highways. Those in passenger vehicles might not expect to see pedestrians in these areas. Yet, they still have a legal obligation to watch for pedestrians and drive safely to avoid striking someone, even when walking in a non-designated area.
Parking zones and parking lanes are difficult spaces for motorists to navigate. Lanes are narrow, pedestrians are everywhere, and drivers are often more focused on not hitting another vehicle. Additionally, other vehicles, poles, walls, and objects sometimes obstruct visibility, increasing the likelihood of a pedestrian accident.
Another common occurrence in busy, urban parking lots is drivers rushing to beat other vehicles to prime parking spaces. The most frequent way that pedestrian accidents occur in parking areas is when drivers are backing up from a parking spot. Many drivers aren’t looking for pedestrians, and some people walk by a vehicle without noticing reverse lights.
Pedestrian knockdowns on sidewalks are rare, but they do occur. Although aggressive driving might cause a motorist to drive on a sidewalk, most sidewalk pedestrian accidents occur because of distracted, drunk, or drowsy driving. In all of these cases, the driver’s condition prevents them from fully controlling their vehicle.
Additionally, they do not have the time or capacity to take in everything around them. Before a driver realizes it, they are up on a sidewalk, likely causing property damage and putting all pedestrians on the sidewalk at risk for severe and fatal injuries.
Shared use Paths or Trails
Cars and trucks are not the only vehicles or objects involved in pedestrian accidents. Pedestrians face accident risks and injuries when they share a trail or path with bicycles, scooters, and skateboards. For example, cyclists on trails might go too fast or lose control of their bikes, causing a pedestrian accident. Crowded paths and trails only increase this issue.
Busy trails and paths make it difficult for pedestrians and others to hear and see all the traffic around them, increasing the chances of a collision. These types of pedestrian accidents also lead to severe injuries, leaving victims to spend weeks or months recovering and healing.
Causes of Pedestrian Accidents
Pedestrians can forget to check a crosswalk or be distracted and step into traffic, sustaining severe and life-threatening injuries. Malfunctioning crosswalk signals and poor signage can also cause dangerous pedestrian accidents. However, the vast majority of pedestrian accidents occur because of driver negligence. Here are some common driving behaviors that sometimes cause pedestrian accidents.
According to the NHTSA, close to half of pedestrian accidents involve alcohol. This issue includes drivers and pedestrians with blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 or higher. Depending on the year, 15-20 percent of fatal pedestrian accidents involve a motorist with a BAC of 0.08 or higher.
Alcohol impairs driving in several ways, but broadly speaking, it impacts a driver’s ability to judge space and time. Even if a drunk driver sees a pedestrian, alcohol can prevent them from stopping soon enough to avoid striking them. The drunk driver cannot react quickly and does not leave the proper amount of space to stop.
Pedestrians are at risk for accidents caused by drowsy drivers, especially late at night and early in the morning, when drowsy drivers are more likely to be on the road. Drowsy drivers can fall asleep at the wheel and strike a pedestrian, but this does not occur that frequently. It’s more likely that fatigue impairs a driver, causing a pedestrian accident.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)—the government agency dedicated to regulating the trucking industry—has extensively researched the relationship between driving and sleep. Their research shows that a person who goes without sleep for 18 hours suffers the same level of impairment as someone with a BAC of 0.08, the legal limit for alcohol when driving a motor vehicle. Drowsy drivers struggle to react to the information they see on the road and have difficulty judging time and distance.
Distracted driving is among the most dangerous of all negligent driving behaviors. When motorists don’t have their eyes on the road, their hands on the wheel, or their mind on driving, they put everyone else on the road at risk for accident and injury, including pedestrians. Cell phones are the most common culprit, but drivers face various other distractions.
- Combing hair, putting on makeup, and other personal grooming
- Adjusting seats, climate controls, radio, moonroof, or other vehicle features
- Eating snacks and drinking while driving
- Focusing on an event outside the vehicle
- Reaching for dropped items on the floor or in the backseat
- Tending to other passengers, especially small children
- Arguments or heated discussions with other vehicle occupants
If a distracted driver sees a pedestrian, it’s often too late for them to slow down or stop to avoid striking them.
Drivers who speed risk striking pedestrians, especially in urban areas with abundant residential neighborhoods. These neighborhoods have people who might be walking, running, or jogging. It’s also common to see small children. Drivers do not have the time to avoid a pedestrian accident if they excessively speed through residential neighborhoods, which have the lowest speed limits in most cities.
Additionally, speeding makes it more likely that a driver will lose control of their vehicle in a residential or commercial neighborhood. Even speeding through parking lots can lead to dangerous pedestrian accidents. Speeding is especially dangerous in winter when snow and ice slow pedestrians down and create slippery conditions that make it difficult for vehicles to stop and avoid a pedestrian knockdown.
Failure to Yield
Streets and roads have an abundance of signs and signals for pedestrians. When drivers fail to yield at crosswalks, they risk striking a pedestrian. The failure to yield might occur because of aggressive driving or excessive speeding. Drivers believe they have the right of way and do not look for pedestrians or stop for them, regardless of the signs or signals.
The failure to yield is most often associated with distracted or inattentive driving. Drivers not focused on the task at hand fail to see signs, signals, or pedestrians in the middle of a crosswalk, potentially leading to a severe pedestrian accident.
Failure to Use Turn Signals
Pedestrians are responsible for acting with care when they are around motor vehicles. For example, they should not jump out in the middle of traffic or try to beat a crosswalk signal. Jaywalking can also cause an accident. However, the onus falls upon drivers in motor vehicles. Using turn signals is one way to avoid pedestrian accidents.
Responsible pedestrians take in all the information around them before crossing traffic at an intersection, including which way a vehicle is turning. The failure to use turn signals leaves pedestrians without the information they need to make a decision. This miscommunication can lead to a dangerous pedestrian accident.
Pedestrian Accident Victims Might Be Eligible for Compensation
If a motor vehicle struck you while you were on foot, the driver might be financially liable for economic and noneconomic losses related to the pedestrian accident. You could receive compensation if you can prove your injuries occurred because of their negligence.
An experienced pedestrian accident lawyer can represent you with the insurance company and take your case to court if necessary. They will seek to prove the driver was negligent by gathering evidence, including documents like police reports and medical records. Victims who win their cases receive compensation for various damages depending on the situation.
If you prevail in your claim, you could receive compensation for:
- Medical expenses, including ambulance transport, emergency room treatment, hospitalization, surgery, diagnostic testing, radiology, prescriptions, physical therapy, occupational therapy, assistive devices, and travel costs to and from the clinic or hospital for doctor appointments
- Estimated future medical treatment costs when a pedestrian accident leads to a permanent injury, requiring ongoing care and treatment
- Lost income from missing work due to pedestrian accident injuries, hospitalization, and rehabilitation
- Lost earning capacity if you are unable to return to work because of a permanent injury from the pedestrian accident
- Physical pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Loss of consortium
- Diminished quality of life
- Scarring and disfigurement
Your pedestrian accident lawyer can review your case and advise you on which damages apply.
Let an Experienced Lawyer Help After a Pedestrian Accident
Pedestrian accident injuries are often severe because people do not have any protection when a vehicle strikes them. Victims spend weeks, sometimes months, recovering if they are fortunate enough to live through the ordeal.
If you have suffered injuries in a pedestrian accident, contact an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible, and let them evaluate your case and advise you of the legal paths available for your claim.