When considering car or auto accidents the first image that springs to mind is likely a two or more vehicular collision. For those involved in such horrific accidents, the end result can be fatal. Thankfully, advancements in technology, including safety belts, airbags, and the outer shell of the vehicle itself may afford enough protection for those involved to sustain only minor injuries.
There is another kind of vehicular accident though. One where the chance of the victim walking away is reduced dramatically – even if the car is going at a relatively slow speed – and that is when a driver hits a pedestrian.
Regardless of whether the driver or the pedestrian was at fault, the human body is defenseless against the extreme trauma of being struck by a moving vehicle. Even going at only at 25 mph, a car hitting a pedestrian will be fatal 25% of the time. Increase the speed by only 10 mph and the victim has practically no chance of survival.
Pedestrian Fatality Risk at Various Striking Vehicle Speeds
14 MPH 5%
21 MPH 10%
25 MPH 25%
28 MPH 58%
30 MPH 75%
35 MPH 99%
With statistics like this, you would think that all drivers would be especially mindful of their surroundings in any environment where there is a likelihood that the road and sidewalk might be used by the public. Unfortunately, this does not appear to be the case. In fact, despite a general trend towards fewer traffic fatalities between 2004 and 2013, the percentage of traffic fatalities involving pedestrians continues to rise.
He Just Jumped Out!
Not every pedestrian accident is the fault of the driver. Kids chasing balls are notoriously lacking in road sense. Older residents are less likely to hear an oncoming vehicle and will have a much longer reaction time. More than a third of pedestrians killed in 2011 had a higher blood concentration of alcohol than is legally allowed for drivers.
Unfortunately, whether or not he or she is at fault, drivers that seriously injure or kill pedestrians will bear a burden of that tragic event for the rest of their lives. Those that are at fault will also face a personal injury or possibly wrongful death case and will have to answer for their actions – especially if the circumstances of the accident involved distracted or drunk driving.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) publishes an annual overview of pedestrian safety facts. The most recent report details 2013 pedestrian accident data. The report defines a pedestrian as “… any person on foot, walking, running, jogging, hiking, sitting, or lying down who is involved in a motor vehicle traffic crash.”
Key findings from the NHTSA report include:
- On average, a pedestrian was killed every 2 hours and injured every 8 minutes in traffic crashes in 2013.
- In 2013, one-fifth (21%) of the children from birth to 14 years old who were killed in traffic crashes were pedestrians.
- Alcohol involvement—for the driver and/or the pedestrian—was reported in 49 percent of all fatal pedestrian crashes in 2013.
- In 2013, 92 percent of pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes involved a single vehicle.
- One-fifth of the pedestrians killed in 2013 were struck in crashes that involved a hit-and-run driver.
Safety Reminders for Pedestrians
- Walk on a sidewalk or path when one is available.
- If no sidewalk or path is available, walk on the shoulder, facing traffic. Stay alert; don't be distracted by electronic devices, including smartphones, MP3 players, and other devices that take your eyes
(and ears) off the road.
- Be cautious night and day when sharing the road with vehicles.
- Never assume a driver sees you (he or she could be distracted, under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, or just not see you). Make eye contact with drivers as they approach.
- Be predictable. Cross streets at crosswalks or intersections when possible. This is where drivers expect pedestrians.
- If a crosswalk or intersection is not available, locate a well-lit area, wait for a gap in traffic that allows you enough time to cross safely, and continue to watch for traffic as you cross.
- Be visible. Wear bright clothing during the day, and wear reflective
materials or use a flashlight at night.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs when walking; they impair your judgment and coordination.
Pedestrian Safety Tips for Drivers
- Look for pedestrians everywhere. Pedestrians may not be walking where they should be or may be hard to see—especially in poor lit conditions, including dusk/dawn/night and poor weather.
- Always stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk or where pedestrian crosswalk signs are posted.
- Never pass vehicles stopped at a crosswalk. They may be stopped to allow pedestrians to cross the street.
- Slow down and look for pedestrians. Be prepared to stop when turning or otherwise entering a crosswalk.
- Never drive under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.
- Follow the speed limit; slow down around pedestrians.
- Stay focused and slow down where children may be present, like school zones and neighborhoods.
As the NHTSA campaign says, Everyone is a Pedestrian. Drive safely out there.