Pedestrian Traffic Fatalities On The Rise

Walking and biking are excellent transportation methods. Traveling as a pedestrian is healthy, inexpensive and uses up fewer global resources than driving. Perhaps that is why pedestrian travel has rose in the public awareness in recent years and communities across the U.S. are attempting to increase the accessibility of bike and walking areas for the public.

With the increasing number of pedestrians on the road comes an increasing need for pedestrian safety. Overall traffic deaths are down from previous years, with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently reporting record-low traffic fatalities in 2011. This continues a downward trend for traffic deaths that has held steady since 2005. However, according to recent statistics by the NHTSA, this trend is not true for pedestrian fatalities. Pedestrian deaths actually rose in 2010, the most recent year data is available. Pedestrians now account for 13 percent of all traffic fatalities, with 4,280 people injured while walking or bike riding in 2010.

Harmful Driver Behavior

Several factors contribute to pedestrian accident risk. Neither drivers nor pedestrians are solely responsible for pedestrian safety, but rather each play a role in making the roads safe for everyone. Because a collision between a car and a walker or bike rider is never equal, however, when a driver does not pay attention to pedestrian safety the consequences can be severe. The risk of injury or death for pedestrians increases when drivers on the road:

  • Minimize pedestrian risk or relax vigilance regarding pedestrians when driving
  • Do not stop well before a crosswalk; in addition to avoiding hitting pedestrians themselves, this gives other vehicles an opportunity to see the crossing pedestrians as well
  • Drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Speed, especially in high-risk areas such as in a school zone
  • Text while behind the wheel or otherwise drive distracted

Drivers should also follow common sense rules regarding pedestrians, such as to slow down if children are walking nearby.

Dangerous Circumstances and At-Risk Individuals

Particular areas are high-risk for pedestrians, as are certain times of the day. The National Safety Council has estimated over 85 percent of pedestrian deaths occur in urban areas. Pedestrian deaths tend to occur outside of crosswalks, especially for younger children, as they are more prone to dart out in traffic, the NHC data indicated.

According to the PEDSAFE, an organization focused on improving pedestrian safety, the morning and evening are the most dangerous times for pedestrians, as well as later at night. Over half of pedestrian deaths occur after 4 p.m., which accounts both for night-time driving and alcohol use.

Inclement weather, the state of repair of sidewalks and construction work also play roles in the risk of injury and death to pedestrians.

Pedestrians Can Help to Protect Themselves

Of course, pedestrians can do their part to improve safety. Pedestrians should obey all traffic laws, use particular caution at high-risk areas and make sure to watch young children closely.

While following safety guidelines can reduce risk for pedestrians, it cannot, unfortunately, eliminate all risk. If you have been injured while walking or biking, or a loved one has been killed, contact a personal injury attorney to discuss possible legal action.