The Truth About Pedestrian Accidents
A pedestrian is defined as a person walking, running or jogging along a street, whether it is in a quiet neighborhood or a busy city street. Many people do not consider the potential risk of an accident before choosing to walk down a street with a high volume of automobile traffic. Although pedestrians are known to have the right of way when crossing a road, they can be vulnerable to accidents that can result in injury and even death.
Pedestrian accidents often involve unsuspecting people who are hit by a car despite making reasonable attempts to protect themselves from injury. Even if a pedestrian waits on the sidewalk for a protected signal before crossing an intersection, they cannot predict the actions of vehicle drivers. Drivers are expected to respect the right of way of those traveling on foot and share the road with them. While the majority of pedestrian accidents occur due to reckless and negligent driving, pedestrians are also responsible for following safety rules and traffic signs in order to avoid accidents.
According to the latest data released by the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA),
• In 2013, 4,735 pedestrians died in traffic crashes and an estimated 66,000 were injured. On average, a pedestrian was killed every two hours and injured every eight minutes.
• Pedestrian deaths comprised 14 percent of all traffic fatalities resulting from automobile crashes.
• Age is a significant factor in pedestrian accidents. Senior citizens aged 65 and over and children under the age of 15 accounted for a combined 27 percent of fatalities and 34 percent of injuries.
• The majority of pedestrian accidents occurred in urban areas and in the dark — 73 percent and 72 percent respectively. In addition, 69 percent of accidents happened at non-intersections.
• Alcohol was a factor in 49 percent of all fatal pedestrian crashes.
• With 501 deaths, Florida had the second highest number of pedestrian fatalities in the United States after California.
• Among all U.S. cities with a population of 500,000 or more, Jacksonville had 3.92 pedestrian deaths per 100,000 population, the second highest pedestrian fatality rate.
Pedestrian accidents can occur due to a number of reasons, whether it is a driver’s reckless behavior, or a pedestrian’s inattentiveness while crossing a street. Some common causes of pedestrian accidents are:
• Driver negligence or inattentiveness: Distracted driving causes drivers to take their attention away from the road. Accidents can occur when drivers are busy talking on their cellphones, texting, eating, entering information into a GPS, applying makeup or engaging in other activities while driving. Drivers may fail to halt at stoplights, make turns without paying attention to their surroundings, or fail to check for pedestrians in crosswalks prior to driving through them.
• Aggressive driving: Such driving is likely to occur in busy cities where high volumes of traffic can lead to frustration. Drivers may make illegal turns or violate traffic signals as a result. Behaviors associated with road rage, such as speeding, are also likely to cause pedestrian accidents.
• Electronics: Both drivers and pedestrians should refrain from using electronic devices when on the road. Cellphones and music players can divert an individual’s attention and compromise their senses of sight and hearing when driving or crossing the street.
• Dark clothes: According to the NHTSA, 72 percent of all pedestrian accidents occur at night. Wearing dark clothes at night is likely to make pedestrians less visible to drivers, especially in areas with poor lighting.
• Quiet cars: Although hybrid and electric vehicles are ideal for residential areas, they are more likely to cause pedestrian accidents than other automobiles. Besides their sight, pedestrians also use their sense of hearing to detect oncoming traffic.
• Alcohol: Driving under the influence is a leading cause of pedestrian accidents. In addition, alcohol can impair the judgement and coordination of pedestrians when crossing the road.
• Unmarked crosswalks: Using signaled crosswalks significantly reduces the risk of pedestrian accidents, especially at intersections. A lack of clearly marked pedestrian walkways in parking lots may also result in drivers failing to notice people when they are focused on parking.
• Improper lane use: A large number of pedestrian accidents occur on roads rather than sidewalks. A bike riding on the sidewalk can force pedestrians to walk on the road, exposing them to a higher risk of injury or death from a traffic accident.
Pedestrians walking on the streets of traffic-heavy Florida cities can follow some important tips to reduce the chances of being in an accident. Here are some simple ways in which people can avoid pedestrian accidents:
• Be aware of surroundings. While the majority of pedestrian accidents are caused by dangerous driving, pedestrians should look out for bumps, potholes and other potential hazards on the road and sidewalk.
• Follow all rules and pay attention to traffic signs and signals. Perhaps the most basic of all safety rules is looking both ways when crossing a street. A pedestrian can be responsible for their injuries when they ignore the walk signal at an intersection or fail to use a crosswalk to cross the road. Although pedestrians have the right of way, they must be cautious when entering any road.
• Avoid using electronics when on the road. Devices such as smartphones and MP3 players can distract one’s attention from oncoming traffic or dangerous conditions on the street. Keep your eyes and ears on the road.
• Be visible. Wear bright clothes during the day and reflective materials at night. Light colored clothes are easier to spot in the dark, especially in areas with poor street lighting. Using a flashlight can also help drivers see pedestrians at night.
• Be cautious when sharing the road with vehicles. Never assume a driver sees you. Pedestrians should engage in predictable behavior. For example, they should cross streets at crosswalks when possible, walk on sidewalks and use overpasses and underpasses when they are available.