Pedestrians who are walking to or from work, enjoying physical exercise, or simply going for a neighborhood stroll have the right to remain safe and harm-free while on public roadways and sidewalks.
However, pedestrians are more at risk for severe injuries and deaths than they have been for years. This is alarming and devastating news for individuals who live in Washington, DC as this is a very walkable city that attracts individuals around the country who want to visit or live in a thriving city without a motor vehicle.
According to NPR, there was a new study released showing how dangerous the roads across the country are for pedestrians. For example, around 20 pedestrians who are walking outside are killed every single day by motor vehicles in America. The senior director of policy and government relations at the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), Russ Martin, explained that the numbers show that more pedestrians are being killed than we have seen in several decades. In fact, he stated that pedestrian deaths have been steadily rising since 2010 for a variety of different reasons, such as the pandemic. However, even though the pandemic ended, the surge in pedestrian deaths continued to rise.
The types of injuries that result from a pedestrian accident
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reported over 7,000 pedestrian deaths in the United States in 2021, which was a 13 percent increase from 2020. In 2009, pedestrian deaths were at their lowest with 4,109 deaths. However, when comparing that number to the number of pedestrian deaths in 2021, there has been an 80 -percent increase in a little over a decade. These deaths usually occur because the pedestrian cannot handle the speed, weight, force, or impact of the vehicle. Therefore, if they are lucky enough to survive, they will most likely suffer from at least a few of the following injuries:
- Head and skull injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Back and spinal cord injuries
- Cuts, punctures, or lacerations
- Internal organ damage
- Internal bleeding
- Broken or fractured bones
- Crush injuries
- Amputations or loss of limbs
- Facial, dental, or eye injuries
- Soft tissue injuries
- Severe scarring
- Permanent disfigurement
- Mental and emotional trauma
- Neck injuries or whiplash
If you are a pedestrian who has been struck by a motor vehicle, it is important that you receive medical treatment immediately. Your physician will evaluate your injuries to determine how severe they are, as well as develop a medical treatment plan to help you heal and get back on your feet after the accident.
Why do pedestrian accidents occur?
These accidents happen due to various reasons, such as:
- Not following laws
- Reckless or careless driving
- Intoxicated driving
- Improper lane changes
- Failing to yield the right of way
- Inclement weather
- Distracted driving
- Failing to check blind spots
- Poor street designs
The leading cause of pedestrian crashes is negligence – by a driver, another pedestrian, a cyclist, or another third party.
Pedestrian accidents are very serious because the human body is not built to withstand high amounts of force, weight, or impact from a motor vehicle or other type of transportation option (bicycle, scooter, etc.). Therefore, when a pedestrian is struck, they typically experience catastrophic injuries that take many years from which to recover.
A quick look at the effect of SUVs on pedestrians
Russ Martin, senior director of policy and government relations at the GHSA, told NPR that “pedestrian deaths have been climbing since 2010 because of unsafe infrastructure and the prevalence of SUVs, which tend to be more deadly for pedestrians than smaller cars.”
NPR cited its own 2018 report on analysis by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS), which found that “between 2009 and 2016, pedestrian fatalities increased in nearly every circumstance examined. But among all types of vehicles, SUVs had the biggest spike in single-vehicle fatal pedestrian crashes.” Recent data shows this is still a major concern. An IIHS study in 2022 found that “SUVs, pickups, vans and minivans are substantially more likely than cars to hit pedestrians when making turns, suggesting that these larger vehicles may not afford drivers as clear a view of people crossing the road.”
SUVs are wider, larger, and heavier than they’ve ever been before. Their design creates blind spots that can make it all but impossible for their drivers to see pedestrians – especially children – or cyclists.
How can pedestrian deaths be lowered?
Peter Norton, an associate professor of history in the Department of Engineering and Society at the University of Virginia, spoke to NPR about some of the affordable steps that lawmakers can take to lower pedestrian deaths. His suggestions included:
- Creating sharp corners instead of round curves to encourage motor vehicle drivers to drive slower
- Developing pedestrian islands and curb extensions
- Lowering speed limits
- Adding more bicycle lanes and pathways
- Putting red light and speeding cameras in place at more intersections
Additionally, the GHSA suggested placing police officers in areas where there are more motor vehicle and pedestrian accidents and handing out walk audits to locate and solve any potential walking concerns on the streets and roadways.
Who is liable for a pedestrian accident?
In many cases, pedestrian accidents are the fault of a driver or vehicle operator; as such, that driver or operator can be held liable for any injuries or losses you sustain. However, there may be multiple liable parties depending on the cause of the accident. Those additional parties can include:
- Trucking companies
- Vehicle parts manufacturers
- Washington, DC itself (in cases involving MTA vehicles and/or dangerous conditions under direct supervision of city officials)
- Construction companies
- Restaurants (if a pedestrian is forced into the street because of outdoor dining)
- Other pedestrians (who crowd people off sidewalks, have dogs or pets which attack, are distracted while walking, etc)
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