The nation’s roads have become more hazardous than ever, and pedestrians bear the brunt of the danger. According to the Governor’s Highway Safety Administration (GHSA), the number of pedestrians killed in the United States rose by 25 percent between 2010 and 2015.1 That puts the pedestrian accident statistics for 2015 at a 25-year high.
A Closer Look at the Numbers
Preliminary pedestrian accident statistics for 2016 don’t look promising, either. Based on available data, the GHSA estimates that fatalities increased by 11 percent over the course of one year alone—the single biggest jump in history.
A few years ago, fewer than 5,000 people died every year while walking on or near roads. Just how many pedestrians were killed in 2016? Official statistics suggest we’re on track to see nearly 6,000 pedestrian deaths per year.
What’s behind the statistics? Why are more pedestrians dying now than at any time in the past quarter-century? No one knows for sure, but they have put forward a number of educated guesses.
What Accounts for the Unprecedented Numbers?
Most likely, the spike in pedestrian deaths is the result of not just one cause, but many combined factors. For one, a stronger economy means more cars on the road and more people commuting to work. Low gas prices have also given people the incentive to drive more often. More miles driven equates to more accidents, and that leads to more deaths.
Yet that’s only part of the story. The rest might be explained by one word: distraction. Nowadays, both drivers and pedestrians are spending more time looking down at their phones and less time paying attention to the road in front of them. Even the proliferation of mobile devices doesn’t account for everything, though.
Indeed, the leading cause of pedestrian accidents remains the same as always: speed. To a pedestrian, the difference between 20 miles per hour and 40 miles per hour can be the difference between life and death, or at least between a 10 percent and an 80 percent chance of dying.2
How to Stay Safe
It’s not easy to avoid all road hazards, but there are some steps pedestrians can take to minimize the risks. For one, walkers should always wear bright or reflective clothing at night, since 74 percent of fatalities occur after the sun sets.1 In addition, they should stay sober and keep their phones in their purses or pockets, at least until they’ve stopped in a safe spot.
Cities and car manufacturers can also play a role in protecting pedestrians. More sidewalks, better road and intersection designs, and smart alert technology can all help reduce the fatality rate. Finally, drivers bear the greatest responsibility. It’s up to them to stay sober, stay alert, and keep their speed down to safe limits.
What to Do When Tragedy Strikes
If you’re one of the thousands of people who have been injured in a traffic accident while walking, there are steps you can take to recover damages. Family members who have lost loved ones to pedestrian accidents can also seek redress through the legal system. The first step is to call a seasoned car accident lawyer.
At Schechter, McElwee, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P., we specialize in helping accident victims obtain compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and loss of earning capacity, as well as pain and suffering, loss of companionship, and quality of life damages.
Know your legal rights. Reach out to an auto accident lawyer today to receive a free consultation.