There has been a sharp increase in pedestrian accident fatalities in recent years. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), there were more than 6,500 pedestrian deaths in 2019. This was the highest number of deaths since 1988 and a 30% increase over the pedestrian fatality rate in 2009, just a decade earlier.
It is getting more dangerous each year to walk outside around vehicles. And when a pedestrian is struck by a motor vehicle, the chances of a serious or fatal injuries are far greater than when two vehicles collide. Pedestrians have very little protection, and when they are hit by a vehicle or large object, there is not a lot to keep them from hitting the pavement.
Why are There so Many Pedestrian Accidents?
There are several reasons why pedestrian crashes occur, some of the most common include:
- Improper Lane Use: Many pedestrian accidents happen when a bike that is riding on a sidewalk forces the pedestrian out onto the road where there is often oncoming traffic. In these types of cases, it is usually the bicyclist who is at fault.
- Unmarked Crosswalks: Pedestrian accidents often occur at crosswalk intersections where the pedestrian is crossing the road. Many of these crosswalks do not have signals, and this makes it far more difficult for pedestrians to know when it is their turn to cross.
- Dangerous Turns: Drivers who make dangerous or illegal turns are at much greater risk of colliding with a pedestrian. This danger is heightened when cars are turning left, because both the driver and the pedestrian are looking in a different direction.
- Speeding: Motorists who drive too fast have far less time to react, hit their brakes, and otherwise adjust to adverse road conditions that may arise. And when a vehicle strikes a pedestrian at a higher speed, the pedestrian is more susceptible to severe and catastrophic injuries.
- Alcohol: In approximately 50% of all pedestrian accident cases, alcohol plays a role. In two-thirds of alcohol related pedestrian crashes, it is the driver that is intoxicated. In the rest of the cases, the pedestrian is the one who has consumed alcohol. The dangers of drinking and driving have been well documented for several decades, but drinking and walking can be dangerous as well, especially when a pedestrian has consumed a large amount of alcohol.
- Dark Clothing: Approximately 70% of pedestrian accidents happen at night, and around half occur on the weekends. After the sun goes down, dark clothing is more difficult for drivers to see. When walking at night, it is good practice for a pedestrian to wear bright and lightly colored clothing.
- Distractions: A growing number of pedestrian accidents are caused by distractions. Drivers can get easily distracted by their cell phones, passengers, food and drink that they have in the car, and numerous other things. Walkers can also get distracted by their cell phones, and many of them have the music on their headphones turned up too loud to hear nearby traffic.
The GHSA points to a number of trends that might be driving the recent rise in pedestrian accidents:
- Larger Vehicles: During the past decade, the percentage of larger vehicles on the road has vastly increased. More Americans are purchasing SUVs, pickup trucks, and minivans as the price of fuel has dropped and the economy has strengthened. Larger vehicles are more difficult to see out of, which puts pedestrians at greater risk. And when a big vehicle strikes a pedestrian, the risk of serious injuries is greater.
- Unsafe Road Crossings: The majority of pedestrian fatalities happen on local roads, at night, and away from intersections. In fact, during the past decade, the nighttime pedestrian fatality rate has increased by 67%, compared to a 16% increase in fatalities that happened during daytime hours. The GHSA says that this trend highlights the need for safer road crossings and enhanced efforts to make pedestrians and vehicles more visible.
- Unsafe Driving Behaviors: As we discussed earlier, alcohol plays a role in half of all pedestrian crashes, and many are caused by other unsafe driving behaviors such as speeding, distracted driving, and drowsy driving. Far more needs to be done to curb these behaviors and help keep pedestrians safe.
Contact an Experienced Alabama Personal Injury Attorney
If you or someone close to you suffered injury in a pedestrian accident in Alabama, Coumanis & York is here to help. Call our office today at 251-990-3083 (Daphne) or 251-431-7272 (Mobile) or message us online to schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys. We look forward to serving you!