In an alarming trend over the past decade, US roads have turned increasingly dangerous for pedestrians. While 2009 saw 4,302 pedestrian traffic fatalities accounting for 13 percent of the total traffic deaths, the figure jumped up to 6,374, accounting for 17 percent of road deaths, in 2018.
While the fatalities for drivers are at a record low, pedestrian deaths are showing a grim reversal of the trend, increasing by 53 percent between 2009 and 2018. On the other hand, there is an increase of just 2 percent in the overall traffic deaths.
In Virginia, pedestrian deaths are up by 19 percent since 2012. From 70 to 80 pedestrian deaths, the numbers are in the range of 120 to 150 a year. Let us briefly take look at the causes of this growing tragedy, and what needs to be done to arrest the disturbing increase in pedestrian deaths.
Reasons Behind the Jump in Pedestrian Traffic Fatalities
In recent years, and especially after 2012, SUVs seem to have inundated the streets of our cities. In accidents involving a sedan, pedestrians are more likely to be thrown upon the hood, with the likelihood of survival much higher than in accidents where a victim is run over.
With SUVs and trucks as high as 5 feet, there are far more chances of a person being pushed under these beasts. Statistics reveal that in collisions at 40 mph or more, there were one hundred percent fatalities of pedestrians struck by an SUV, as against 54 percent of those struck by a car.
Poverty Moving to the Suburbs
Low-income residents are increasingly moving out of downtowns and disappearing from public view, dispersing to the fringes of metropolitan areas. This movement of the urban poor to suburban areas is another reason for the increase in pedestrian fatality rate.
City centers are witnessing the return of wealthier whites, pushing the brown and black communities into the suburban sprawl. The suburbs, with their wide arterial roads, dearth of sidewalks, and 45 mph speeds, are taking a toll on the urban poor forced to walk due to lower vehicle ownership.
As the Baby Boomers age, adding to the ranks of people above 65, they become a part of the burgeoning high-risk group particularly vulnerable to being run over by drivers. The Department of Motor Vehicles figures show that fatalities in the age group of 65 and older pedestrians are up a staggering 95 percent over the 2018 count.
The US Department of Transportations (DOTs) and traffic safety campaigns repeatedly note that the majority (up to 94 percent) of all motor vehicle crashes are due to a human error. However, a growing number of city planners are rejecting this claim as an excuse to shield the engineers for the defects in design and infrastructure, that are the real reasons behind the deadly accidents.
In the view of urbanists, the 94 percent myth draws attention away from badly designed roads and alarmingly high speed limits, which are the real risk factors. This myth prevents our communities from coming up with efficient policy and improved design solutions, placing our most vulnerable road users, including seniors, children, people with impairments, bicyclists, and pedestrians, at risk.
Steps Taken in Virginia for Pedestrian Safety
The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) launched the Virginia Pedestrian Safety Action Plan to counter and control the growing number of pedestrian fatalities on the state’s roadways. Some of the measures taken under the plan include:
- Development of crosswalks with high visibility
- Creating curb extensions
- Improving pedestrian crosswalk and countdown signals
- Designing signage for advance warning
- Setting up in-street yield signs
While Virginia DOT realizes the need for urgency in improving safety for pedestrians, especially at intersections and on roadways, implementing these changes to the existing infrastructure takes time. Meanwhile, as pedestrians or motorists, the onus is on all of us to try and make our roadways safer.
Pedestrian Safety Tips
- Try to make eye contact with an approaching driver
- Use sidewalks where available
- Walk off the roadway while facing the oncoming traffic, if there are no sidewalks
- Avoid the use of cell phones while walking on the streets
- Cross roadways at intersections or crosswalks
- Wear reflective clothing at nighttime and carry a flashlight
- Wear bright colors during the day to make yourself fairly visible to motorists
- Do not take drugs or alcohol before walking
Driver Safety Tips for the Safety of Pedestrians
- Obey all signs and traffic signals and look out for pedestrians
- Do not use a cell phone, or try to operate the navigation system or radio while driving
- Slow down and stay alert at intersections and crosswalks
- Stay alert and watch for children around schools, residential areas, and playgrounds
- Do not pass a stationary school bus on the road, under any circumstances
- Keep an eye out for pedestrians before making a turn
- Give the right of way to pedestrians all the time
- Never mix drinking and driving
- Do not flout the recommended speed limits
Hire a Virginia Pedestrian Accident Attorney
Pedestrians injured in an accident due to someone else’s negligence, are entitled to seek compensation. A Virginia pedestrian accident attorney at Shapiro, Appleton & Washburn, can evaluate your injury case, determine the damages you can pursue, and secure the maximum possible compensation for your injuries.
If you or a loved one have suffered injuries in a pedestrian or any other type of accident, call us today at 800-752-0042 to schedule a free and confidential consultation, or contact us online.
Rick Shapiro has practiced personal injury law for over two decades in Virginia, North Carolina, and throughout the Southeastern United States. He is a Board Certified Civil Trial Advocate by the National Board of Trial Advocacy (ABA Accredited) and has litigated injury cases throughout the eastern United States, including wrongful death, trucking, faulty products, railroad, and medical negligence claims. His success in and out of the courtroom is a big reason why he was named 2019 “Lawyer of the Year” in railroad law in U.S. News & World Report's Best Lawyers publication (Norfolk, VA area), and he has been named a “Best Lawyer” and “Super Lawyer” by those peer-reviewed organizations for many years. Rick was also named a “Leader in the Law, Class of 2022” by Virginia Lawyers Weekly (total of 33 statewide honorees consisting of lawyers and judges across Virginia).