Are You Really Safe When You Go for a Walk Anymore?

It’s a beautiful day in sunny California. The birds are chirping, the sun is shining, and it’s a balmy, calm temperate day with just a mild breeze to keep you from being a hair too hot. There is no reason to be stuck inside. It’s a perfect day for a walk, right?

In the past, the answer to that question would be a resounding, “YES!” But nowadays, a person setting forth on a brisk jog around the neighborhood to improve or maintain their health or someone else heading out for a relaxing stroll to enjoy the beautiful day is setting themselves up to become a statistic: An innocent pedestrian struck by a car.

In cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego, it’s common for eco-friendly, health conscious, or budgeting individuals to bike or walk to their destination. You’ll find multiple pedestrians and cyclists on the sidewalks or walking near traffic to get to work, school, stores, and more. 

But the rate of pedestrian injuries and fatalities due to car accidents is increasing all over the country, even in these areas where drivers should be alert and aware that there are walkers and bikers everywhere.

So are you really safe when you go for a walk, or are you simply taking your life in your own hands by trying to do something good for you and the environment?

The Statistics Keep Climbing

According to studies done by the Governor’s Highway Safety Association, 2018 was the deadliest year in almost three decades for pedestrians in the U.S. Not since the 1990s has the country seen a wave of car versus pedestrian collisions of this magnitude, and it’s projected to get even worse.

An estimated 6,227 pedestrians were fatally injured in accidents where they were struck by a vehicle last year. This number reflects an upward trend that has been climbing since 2009. Is it a coincidence that this was also around the time that most people began using smartphones on a regular, daily basis? Researchers don’t think so.

Even though fatalities due to other types of traffic deaths are showing a downward trend, pedestrian injuries and fatalities are rising. This is in part due to the increase in walking as a popular means of transportation. There are many reasons why people choose to walk to their destination – saving fuel and money, being environmentally conscientious, or simply easy of access are just a few of them.

However, certain factors increase the danger a person is exposed to when they decide to walk. Crossing roads in evenings at during the nighttime, especially when it’s a local road without an intersection, is one of the factors with the highest danger rating. Drivers often can’t see the person walking, and on local roads, many of those drivers are overconfident and traveling on autopilot, so they aren’t even looking out for dangers. 

When drivers are practicing unsafe habits, like speeding, driving distractedly, being under the influence when behind the wheel, or driving while drowsy, they put pedestrians and cyclists, as well as other vehicles, in danger. It’s become all too common to see a driver swerve to the right, off of the road, catch themselves, and then correct their course. Unfortunately, this right-sided area is where pedestrians and bicyclists usually travel.

The increase in SUVs on the road accounts for some of the more severe or fatal incidents, too. While car crashes are dangerous, when SUVs and bigger trucks are involved, the injuries tend to be more serious or even deadly. SUVs are popular and the number of drivers purchasing this type of car is expected to continue to rise, making up 50% or more of the vehicles on the road by the year 2020.

In addition to the inherent visibility dangers that occur when traveling at night, whether walking or driving, the night hours just seem to be a magnet for bad behavior. More than 90% of pedestrian deaths occur during this time period, and over half of these deaths in 2017 were due, at least in part, to impaired walking or driving due to alcohol consumption. 

Which leads us to remind you: Don’t drink and drive, ever, but especially not at night, and if you’re not sober, don’t walk or bike at night, either. You’re not just putting yourself at risk, but you’re putting the lives of others in your hands, too. Inebriated walking can be just as deadly as drunk driving.

But walking, biking, or any form of travel that improves your health, helps the environment, and saves you money shouldn’t be avoided just because it can be dangerous. There are steps that you can take to make this positive situation safer for you and others and prevent accidental collisions as much as possible.

Safety First – Follow These Precautions

You can’t predict all driver behaviors, you can’t avoid all accidents, and you can’t always be safe, even if you wrapped yourself in bubble wrap and never left the house. But you can practice safety procedures and take certain precautions to help limit your role in a collision.

Certain behaviors are more conducive to injuries or fatalities caused by a car accident. These pedestrian and cyclist behaviors can be just as at-fault as the driver who hits them. Avoid the following deadly pedestrian mistakes when you are on the road:

  • Try not to walk at night if at all possible, and if you have to, use the safety precautions listed below.
  • Never walk impaired by a substance.
  • Don’t use your phone while walking.
  • Don’t cross in the middle of the street if there is a nearby intersection.
  • Avoid horseplay. You’d be amazed at how many injuries and fatalities were caused by a friend playfully shoving their walking partner into the road – straight into oncoming traffic. 

There are definitely “don’t” behaviors you need to avoid, but there are also precautions you can take to be proactive. Here are a few safety guidelines that you can follow to help prevent accidents:

  • If there is a sidewalk, use it! They are there for a reason – to keep drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians safe. 
  • Use intersections, crosswalks, and street corners when you are ready to cross the road. There are usually white, painted crosswalk lines that guide you to the safest areas to cross. When you use these appointed locations, cars that don’t see you and may collide with you anyway are usually going slower, which can help decrease the severity of injury involved.
  • Follow traffic rules and signals. Don’t just walk and expect the drivers to stop for you. Check the traffic lights, watch for stop signs, and proceed with caution. Never just run into the road without looking left, looking right, then looking left again.
  • If you do have to walk at night, wear bright, reflective clothing. Wearing dark clothes makes you nearly invisible to drivers until they are right up on you. If you walk or ride a bike at night often, invest in reflectors to put on your backpack, jacket, or other visible clothing item and bicycle.
  • Make sure drivers who are turning or pulling out of their driveway see you. This doesn’t mean you have to jump up and down, waving your arms and hollering, but by making eye contact, placing yourself in a location where they should be able to see you clearly, or otherwise making yourself visible is the best way to stay safe.

No Matter How Careful You Are, Accidents Happen

Unfortunately, even the most cautious of pedestrians can be struck by a car, and even the most careful, conscientious of drivers can cause an accident. That’s simply part of life: being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

One of the common consequences of car versus pedestrian collisions is that the person hit usually has moderate to severe injuries resulting in big medical bills, out-of-pocket expenses, and lost work for themselves or those who need to take care of them. 

There is no insurance that a pedestrian can take out ahead of time to cover them in the event of a car accident. Some health insurances even refuse to pay for injuries sustained in these situations. The driver’s automobile insurance should step up, sure, but what if the policy limits aren’t enough to take care of all of the injured person’s expenses?

As a victim of a pedestrian and motor vehicle collision, you have rights. If you were hit by a car as a pedestrian or bicyclist, you should speak to an attorney as soon as possible. Knowledgeable, caring attorneys like those of us at Hershey Law will guide you along this new, often stressful path so that you can concentrate on recovering your health while we focus on getting your bills paid and recovering your out-of-pocket expenses for you.

When you are ready to find out what rights you have as an injured pedestrian or bicyclist and how we can help you protect those rights, contact Hershey Law for your free consultation.