Everyone is a pedestrian at some point and cities and towns usually try to keep their residents safe from inattentive or reckless motorists while out walking or bicycling. As a pedestrian, you have little chance of escaping serious injury or a fatal injury when struck by a motor vehicle. Although many municipalities have taken steps to protect pedestrians, the number of pedestrian deaths in Massachusetts and across the nation are on the increase.
From 2017 to 2021, Massachusetts communities experienced an average of 70 pedestrian fatalities per year. In 2022, we had an increase in deaths with 101 pedestrian fatalities. In 2020, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that nationwide there were 6,516 pedestrians killed by motorists, a 3.9% increase from 2019, and representing the highest number of deaths since 1990.
What accounts for the increase and why are pedestrian deaths so high?
Where Do Pedestrian Accidents Happen?
Most pedestrian incidents with motorists do not occur at intersections where there are traffic signals and crosswalks. Most drivers use caution at intersections and look for pedestrians though occasionally a distracted or inattentive motorist will ignore those walking in crosswalks.
The majority of pedestrian fatalities are in areas where drivers are operating at higher speeds and in areas where they would not expect people to be walking. Around 75% of fatal accidents occur at night with 40% happening between the hours of 5:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. where there may be poor street lighting if at all or if a pedestrian is crossing the street or on the shoulder and wearing dark clothing. Also, far more motorists are driving while intoxicated or on drugs in the evening hours.
Hit by an Automobile While Walking
Impaired drivers or those with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher account for approximately 32% of fatal pedestrian accidents in the U.S. Also, older adults are at a higher risk of being killed by a vehicle likely due to slower reflexes, poor vision and hearing, and cognitive issues where they are unable to appreciate the risk of crossing a street outside a crosswalk or against a green light or walk signal. Only about 10% of fatalities were of those under the age of 25.
In Massachusetts, statistics show that most pedestrian deaths occur in lower income neighborhoods where fewer residents have vehicles and are more likely to be walking on the streets. Many of these neighborhood or urban streets are poorly designed, poorly lit, or lack speed mitigating devices or designated bike lanes. Obviously, the faster you drive, the less time you have to perceive a pedestrian in your path of travel and to react in time to avoid a tragedy. Seniors are also more likely to live in lower-income neighborhoods as well and not possess a vehicle, putting more of them on the streets.
How to Stay Safe as a Pedestrian
To avoid becoming a statistic, here are some commonsense measures to take while walking on or near a roadway:
- Always try to use a crosswalk and do not jaywalk. You are not given the benefit of the doubt or have the right-of-way if you cross outside of a crosswalk in most instances. If there is none, then wait for a safe interval to cross and in a well-lit area if possible.
- Stay on sidewalks or a well-marked path in a rural area. If no path or sidewalk, then walk facing traffic.
- Stay off your cellphone and take earbuds out of your ears when crossing.
- Do not walk on or near roads while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The NHTSA reported that impaired pedestrians or drunk walkers accounted for 47% of deadly encounters with vehicles.
- Never assume that a motorist sees you. Try to make eye contact with the driver before crossing, even at a crosswalk.
- If going out at night, try to wear bright clothing to make yourself as conspicuous as possible.
There are some communities that are being resourceful in preventing pedestrian accidents. In Kirkland, Washington, around 90 streets have bright yellow flats stationed at crosswalks or crossing areas for people to grab and use while walking across a roadway and to then deposit them in a can on the other side for others to use. Many municipalities have installed flashing lights at crosswalks that pedestrians can activate before crossing.
What to Do if Injured
If injured as a pedestrian, take these steps:
- If possible, get to a safe place out of traffic
- Call 911 and request medical attention
- Get license and insurance information from the driver if able to do so
- Obtain contact information from any witnesses
- Do not decline medical attention if you feel any injury at all
- See your personal or family physician as soon as possible since the sooner you receive medical care, the more credible documentation of your injuries
- Immediately contact a personal injury attorney from Burns and Jain
Retain a Personal Injury Attorney from Burns and Jain
Pedestrian accidents have their own issues regarding liability that only an experienced personal injury attorney can successfully handle on your behalf. Call us for a free consultation about your injury accident claim at (617) 227-7423.