Fatal vehicle collisions involving pedestrians continue to rise. The total pedestrian fatalities in 2018 will likely exceed 6,000, the highest volume in over 30 years. Between 2007 and 2016 the number of pedestrian fatalities rose by 27%. The Washington Post reported that four pedestrians died in a 36-hour period recently. All four of the deceased were walking outside of marked crosswalks and the lighting conditions at the time were considered as being low or dim. This disturbing trend can be attributed to many factors that we will address here.
- A 26-year-old man was killed in Prince George County after he exited the passenger seat of a vehicle and was walking in the middle lane of a three-lane road.
- A 36-year-old woman was struck and killed in Fairfax County while crossing Arlington Blvd. outside of a marked crosswalk.
- A man was struck and killed while walking in a traffic lane on Route 1 in Jessup, Maryland
- A 29-year-old was struck by two vehicles and killed in the Greenbelt area while walking on the shoulder of a ramp on Kenilworth Ave.
Distractions are now the third-leading cause of pedestrian deaths, trailing only excessive speed and failing to yield. New law changes are prohibiting drivers from using mobile devices across the country. Research has shown that drivers who are speaking on cell phones are much more likely to cause a collision compared to a driver operating at .08, the blood-alcohol level limit.
We may overlook the problem of pedestrians themselves being distracted. As you view pedestrians moving about in urban areas it is clear that far too many are distracted. Pedestrians engaged in text messaging are among those at the greatest risk, as well as those wearing headphones who are unable to hear what is happening around them.
Are SUVs to Blame?
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety examined a theory that SUVs are a key contributor to the rise in pedestrian fatalities. Crashes involving SUVs and pedestrians that led to fatalities rose over 80% from 2009 to 2016, while other vehicles had a rate of 46%. There are certainly an increasing number of SUVs on the roads, yet this increase was only by 37%. Jessica Cicchino, one of the researchers, explained fatal collisions are more common due to the greater height and stiffness of SUVs. Pedestrians are also much more likely to have their head hit the hood of an SUV in a collision.
Lack of Attention From Federal Agencies
Kate Kraft, director of America Walks, says that federal agencies have insufficiently addressed pedestrian safety. National campaigns are largely focused on reducing drunk driving and seat belt enforcement. Many pedestrian advocates say that reduced speed limits and greater enforcement in areas where pedestrians are present will have good results.
Infrastructure Needs for Pedestrians
There are many changes in design that would better protect pedestrians. Many areas lack an adequate number of crosswalks. Reducing the speed of traffic in stretches that are heavily traveled by pedestrians is important. Better markings, signage and enforcement are also critical.
Need for Experienced Legal Counsel
Pedestrians are in a highly vulnerable position when involved in a collision with a vehicle. In these incidents the pedestrian is likely to incur more permanent or catastrophic injuries. These victims are encouraged to seek legal assistance from a seasoned personal injury attorney to pursue the often significant financial compensation needed.