The United States is not a safe place for pedestrians, especially those in urban or lower-class areas. In 2021, Florida was once again named the most dangerous state for pedestrians. Even in 2020, a year marked by empty streets without people or cars, the pedestrian fatality rate increased by 20% nationwide. So, what’s going on – why are pedestrian accidents such a big problem in the United States? According to USA Today, the pedestrian safety crisis is driven by speed, distracted driving, infrastructure (including short lights), SUVs, and other aspects of America’s automotive industry and car culture.
Less than 5% of pedestrians die when struck by a vehicle traveling less than 20 miles per hour, but the risk of death goes up to 65% or more for vehicles traveling 40 mph or more.
Speed is not only a problem because drivers violate speed limits but also because speed limits are often too high. Speeding makes all kinds of car accidents worse, and for more than 2 decades, speeding has been involved in approximately 1/3 of motor vehicle fatalities.
Policymakers can reduce speeding by improving road design, lowering speed limits, and installing speed cameras. Drivers should always follow the speed limit and slow down (even if it means driving below the speed limit) on busy streets or areas where they expect pedestrians.
With the rise of smartphones, distracted driving has become a more serious problem, and aside from tracking distracted driving accidents, authorities don’t know just how often people are using their cell phones behind the wheel.
Taking your eyes off the road to send a text message at 55 mph is like driving the entire length of a football field with your eyes closed, and any activity that diverts your attention from driving can be dangerous.
When you’re behind the wheel, keep an eye out for pedestrians and always keep your focus on the task at hand. Know that the police in many cities and states are also cracking down on distracted driving.
American roadways are bad for pedestrians because they are not designed for pedestrians. The country’s car-centered culture treats pedestrians as an afterthought at best and an inconvenience at worst – even though we are all pedestrians for at least part of our days. Additionally, pedestrian accidents are more common in poorer communities, which may not have sidewalks or crosswalks and may be more likely to rely on public transportation (which usually involves more walking).
Pedestrian fatalities disproportionately affect people of color and the elderly, and short crossing lights are also a factor. On average, older people take 24 seconds to cross a 60-foot-wide street, but most lights only last for 15 seconds.
When people cannot cross quickly enough, they can become stranded in oncoming traffic – a problem that is especially common in busy areas with many commercial and residential destinations.
The SUV Revolution
Due to their size, sports utility vehicles (SUVs) are much more likely to seriously injure or kill a pedestrian than other passenger vehicles. While a sedan might hit someone’s legs, the bumper of a sedan strikes pedestrians higher up on their bodies, potentially hitting vital organs in the torso.
Ironically, SUVs have higher safety ratings because pedestrian accidents do not factor into vehicle safety ratings. A federal proposal to factor pedestrians into vehicle safety ratings has faced fierce opposition from automakers like Ford and Fiat Chrysler, which have announced plans to discontinue U.S. sales of most passenger cars and only sell SUVs.
As USA Today argues, “America’s love of SUVs is killing pedestrians.”
What You Should Do If You Are Involved in a Pedestrian Accident
Whether you are a driver, a passenger, a pedestrian, or a witness, stop what you are doing, call 911, and try to help the injured pedestrian if it is safe for you to do so. Do not try to move the injured pedestrian but alert cars of the situation and stay with them until help arrives. Let the pedestrian know you have called for help and keep them talking if you can. It could save a life.
In the heat of the moment, all you need to remember is “Stop. Call. Stay.”
After a pedestrian accident, you may need help dealing with medical bills, missed wages, pain and suffering, and other accident-related losses. Lauri J. Goldstein & Associates, PLLC is here to help.
If you or someone you love has been hit by a car, please call us at (866) 675-4427 for a free consultation or contact us online to put more than 70 years of combined legal experience on your side.