August 31, 2016

Causes of pedestrian accidents

While most are very vocal (as they should be) about the dangers of car accidents, one must always be aware of the risk of being involved in, or even one of the causes of, pedestrian accidents. These causes are important for a few reasons: to be less likely to cause one, be involved in one, or, if the accident already occurred, to be educated on who is likely going to be assigned more liability.

As Florida is a comparative law state, the court will attempt to assign a percentage of the liability on either the driver or the pedestrian; as a driver can ultimately cause more damage without being on the receiving end of it, the driver is more likely to collect a majority of the fault. However, when we understand how a pedestrian can cause these accidents on their end, we can prevent them from happening in the first place.

Crossing the street

Crossing the street is, unfortunately, a necessary evil. While a pedestrian has every right to cross and arrive at their destination, this is where an overwhelming percentage of pedestrian accidents occur, and for many reasons. The first reason is pedestrians choosing to cross outside of a crosswalk. Crosswalks are designed for the safety of those who will use them, so someone who chooses to cross at will increases the risk of being involved in an accident, as well as receiving a fair amount of the blame if the accident is brought in front of a judge.

Similarly, when one does use a crosswalk but does not use the crossing signal as it’s intended, a pedestrian is also incredibly likely to be hit by a car. With no signals instructing drivers to stop and/or look for pedestrians, a driver cannot be blamed for simply driving through.

Left turns made by drivers can also become a sticky situation. When we cross a pedestrian crosswalk, we tend to forget about drivers making left turns into the crosswalk; we look at the street we’ll be crossing, and those turning from the lane next to the sidewalk, but we often forget about any far away lanes when walking along a road with two or more lanes of traffic. Likewise, drivers are more focused on crossing lanes safely than they are on ensuring the crosswalk is clear of pedestrians. This is why it’s incredibly important that pedestrians utilize crosswalks correctly.

Entering traffic

The road is no place for pedestrians; therefore, when a pedestrian chooses to place themselves in harm’s way, it’s no surprise that they’re more likely to be hit by a car. Not only does the sudden presence of a pedestrian in a car’s way obviously greatly increase the chances of a pedestrian accident, but a driver who swerves to avoid said pedestrian may also cause a collision with another driver. While this does not classify as a pedestrian accident, it is a major hazard to be avoided at all costs.

Therefore, two more major causes of pedestrian accidents include entering traffic to disrupt the flow and simply darting in front of a car.

Another reason a pedestrian may find themselves in traffic, though through little to no fault of their own, is misuse of the sidewalk. Bicycles are considered vehicles by law, however, many cyclists either do not know this or choose to use the sidewalk anyways. When a bicycle and a pedestrian using the sidewalk come head to head, and the pedestrian is forced to move onto the street, many tend to find themselves in accidents.

In the same way that a bicyclist can force a pedestrian to walk in traffic, therefore causing a pedestrian accident, an unclean sidewalk may disrupt a pedestrian’s safety. If one is utilizing a sidewalk as they’re meant to, but things like construction, sidewalk/road defects, poor maintenance, or other debris leave one with nowhere else to go, the risk of an accident increases.

Distracted walking, quiet cars, and dark clothing

We’re all very much aware of the dangers of distracted driving. However, most do not think about the damages that can occur when a pedestrian commits distracted walking. According to Langone Medical Center, distracted walking accounts for 8% of pedestrian accidents. We’ve all seen those walking around staring at their phones, completely unaware of the world around them. When this happens at the worst possible time – while walking close to a busy street, crossing a crosswalk, etc. – dangerous accidents can occur. This is why a pedestrian should always pay attention to their surroundings, even if being on one’s phone doesn’t seem inherently dangerous.

Further, you might be surprised to hear that electric and hybrid cars increase the likelihood of a pedestrian accident by 40%, according to this study. Because these cars are so quiet, many are unable to hear them coming, making them one of the increasingly major causes of pedestrian accidents.

Finally, an easy way to prevent the risk of a pedestrian accident is as simple as the clothes you put on before you leave the house. An overwhelming percentage of these accidents occur at night, caused simply because the driver couldn’t see the pedestrian who was wearing dark clothes at night. Always do your due diligence and make sure you are visible to those around you. If possible, bring a reflector or flashlight, so even if drivers can’t see you, they can see that there is something to be avoided.

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