When a pedestrian and a car collide, the pedestrian always loses out. In 2009, about 5,900 pedestrians lost their lives in such collisions in the United States, or one every 90 minutes. These deaths account for 11% of all fatalities involving motor vehicles. Another 80,000 or so pedestrians are injured annually.
As expected, a large majority of pedestrian and vehicle collisions occur in urban areas, where you have a higher volume of both traffic and pedestrians. Nearly as high a percentage of pedestrian and vehicle collisions happen at night, when pedestrians are more difficult to see.
Pedestrian and vehicle collisions happen when cars and people on foot interact, so the most common occur when a pedestrian tries to cross a street. Surprising statistic; pedestrian and vehicle collisions occur almost as frequently at crossings controlled by a signal as at those without signals or crosswalks.
There are many different causes for this type of collision. Inattentiveness to surroundings is the most common cause and that includes drivers and pedestrians. Cell phone use, map reading, and MP3 players are all contributing factors. Another common cause is confusion: Examples include drivers trying to figure out whether they can turn, what lane to drive in, or where they are on the map. These drivers are more likely to hit a pedestrian than are those who know where they are going.
Overly aggressive driving and/or driving too fast for the situation are frequently factors. Poorly designed intersections can also contribute, increasing the chance of a collision. This would include intersections where traffic backs up or where drivers cannot see pedestrians crossing.
For pedestrians, the best option is to avoid a collision altogether. Like drivers, walkers must obey traffic laws and the laws of the road. Cross only at marked crosswalks, and then only cross with the light. Do not jaywalk.
If you are crossing a street stay alert for cars that are not paying attention. This is especially true near a cross street. Use caution when you are walking on a sidewalk that crosses an alleyway or parking lot where drivers might be turning. Look around everywhere before getting into and out of cars parked by the side of the road.
If you have to walk at night, wear a light color, white is preferable. If there is no sidewalk always walk against the traffic to give cars the best opportunity to see you. Finally, don’t insist on your rights. You might have the legal right‑of‑way, but it is far better to let the car do something it is not supposed to do as opposed to taking the right‑of‑way and getting hit.
For drivers as well, avoidance is the safest option. Be aware of pedestrians, especially if you are in a city or after the sun has gone down. Remember, pedestrians have as much right to be there as you do. Don’t drive too fast, and look out for people emerging from behind obstacles like parked cars, trash cans, city buses, etc.
Remember that not everyone walking will obey the law. Watch for people jaywalking or crossing after the signal has changed to “Don’t Walk.” Be especially wary around schools and in residential neighborhoods: Children frequently don’t know the rules, and may dart out from behind a car or cross unsafely to get to a school bus.
There is a role for government, also. Installing sidewalks where none exist and overpasses and underpasses for walkers to cross the road. Also, constructing “islands” in the middle of busy streets will help older, slower pedestrians. All of these measures can reduce the chances of collisions. Better lighting also helps.
Don’t become a statistic. Keep your eyes open, your ears alert, and yourself alive.
IF YOU ARE HIT BY A CAR
The rules to follow when you are involved in a pedestrian and vehicle collision are very similar to those in an all vehicle collision:
- Remain calm. Call the police.
- Do not leave the scene before the police and, if necessary, paramedics arrive.
- Get the names and phone numbers of those involved and of any witnesses.
- Do not make any statements to anyone about the collision except the police.
- Do not admit fault.
- After the collision, consult a doctor for your injuries and contact our firm to make sure that your legal rights are protected.
For more information on pedestrian and car collisions visit the Worthington Law Group website.