Every day people get into car accidents. Sometimes those accidents are with other cars. Sometimes they are with bicycles. And sometimes they are with pedestrians.
In 2013, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that there were 66,000 pedestrian injuries and 4,735 pedestrian deaths – more than 12 people each day – as a result of crashes with motor vehicles. And at least for the injuries, that number is somewhat conservative because many crashes that cause pedestrian injuries aren’t ever reported by police.
These high numbers bring up a variety of questions regarding pedestrian accidents:
- Is walking really that dangerous?
- When and where do accidents occur?
- Who’s to blame for these accidents – the vehicle driver or the pedestrian?
- Can these accidents, injuries, and deaths be prevented?
Let’s try to answer these pressing questions right now.
The Characteristics of a Typical Pedestrian Accident
Most of us walk somewhere every day. Whether it’s from a parking lot into work or a retail store, when we take the dog out, or even just walking to the mailbox, we are pedestrians.
The number of pedestrian accidents in 2013 amounted to someone getting injured every 8 minutes and someone getting killed every 2 hours. With these disturbing numbers, there have to be some conclusions we can draw about pedestrian accidents in general.
Let’s look at the data from the NHTSA.
Where Do Accidents Occur?
- Most pedestrian accidents – 73 percent – occur in populated, urban areas. 27 percent occur in more rural areas.
- 69 percent of accidents happened at non-intersections, 20 percent happened at intersections, and 10 percent happened at other locations, such as parking or bicycle lanes, sidewalks, medians, driveways, and so on.
When Do Accidents Occur?
- 72 percent of accidents happen in the dark, 25 percent during the day, and 4 percent at dusk or dawn.
- 26 percent of pedestrian fatalities happened from 6:00 p.m. to 8:59 p.m.
- 23 percent of fatalities happened from 9:00 p.m. to 11:59 p.m.
From this data, we can determine that if we plan to walk somewhere, we shouldn’t do it at night, especially in highly populated areas. Our best bet is to walk during the day, so cars and drivers can see you better. If you do have to walk at night, wear reflective clothing or carry some kind of light.
Also, most accidents don’t occur at intersections, where pedestrians should be crossing streets. So if you’re a safe pedestrian and you follow the traffic rules, you’re probably less likely to be involved in a crash.
Of course, that’s easy to say, but not always so easy to do in Florida, where many of our roadways were designed to accommodate drivers first and barely give pedestrians a second thought. Lawmakers are working to rectify this situation, but it’s something that won’t be fixed overnight.
Who is Responsible for Pedestrian Accidents?
Depending on the circumstances of the accident, a driver or a pedestrian could be to blame. Whether you’re walking or driving, you have certain responsibilities that you need to adhere to in order to ensure the safety of yourself and others.
If you are negligent in your responsibilities, then you could be held liable for the accident. Negligence is when you do or don’t do something that a reasonable person would to protect people from harm or risk.
So what are your responsibilities – both as a driver and as pedestrian?
Drivers have to be cautious and safe when driving. They have to:
- Remain distraction-free and concentrate solely on driving
- Stick to the speed limit
- Yield to pedestrians at designated crosswalks
- Use signals when turning
- Obey traffic lights and signs
- Drive carefully in inclement weather or traffic conditions
- Pay extra attention in areas where children may be
- Not drive under the influence of alcohol or other drugs
Pedestrians also have to be cautious and safe while walking. They have to:
- Follow traffic signals indicating when it’s safe to walk and when it’s not
- Use the properly marked crosswalks
- Stick to common sense traffic rules, such as don’t dart out in front of cars or don’t jaywalk
- Avoid crossing highways or roadways without a pedestrian area
- Be aware of their surroundings
If a driver or a pedestrian fails to follow their “rules” and an accident occurs, either person could be held liable if they were the one who caused the accident.
Also, if both the pedestrian and the driver didn’t really do anything wrong, but the conditions of the road, sidewalk, parking lot, or something else caused an accident, then whoever is responsible for that maintenance could be held liable.
The bottom line is that many pedestrian accidents can be prevented. So it’s extremely important, regardless of whether you are the driver or the pedestrian, to make sure you are fully aware of your surroundings and that you are being safe and cautious at all times.
If, however, you are injured in a pedestrian accident, call the police, get medical help, and seek the help of an experienced Florida personal injury attorney to see if you’re entitled to compensation based on the circumstances of the accident.
About the Author:
Steven Slootsky is a 1985 graduate of Nova Law School, which means he’s been a practicing Fort Lauderdale injury lawyer for more than 2 decades. He founded the Law Offices of The Injury Law Firm of South Florida in 1991. The Fort Lauderdale-based accident attorney is a member of the Florida Bar, as well as the Federal Bar for the Southern District for the U.S. District Court. During his career as a personal injury lawyer/auto accident compensation attorney, Steven has served as the co-chair of the Workers’ Compensation section for Broward County, Florida. He is also a Bronze member of the Florida Workers Advocates, a former member of the board, and serves as an “Eagle” member of the Florida Academy of Trial Lawyers.