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Pedestrian Traffic Report Documents Rising Fatalities

Jason Reese


  • A new report reviewing the first half of 2017’s pedestrian traffic fatalities has been released by the Governor’s Highway Safety Association, estimating the number of pedestrians killed in motor vehicle crashes nationwide was 5,984.
  • One-third of these pedestrian fatalities occurred on local municipal streets and about 75 percent occurred after dark.
  • Because both 2015 and 2016 saw large increases in pedestrian fatalities, the continuation of pedestrian fatalities at virtually the same pace in 2017 raises continued concerns about the alarming pedestrian death toll.
  • While we certainly wish otherwise, with added driver distractions and more pedestrians to share intersections with, it is not safe to assume a driver will be alert and yield the right of way to a pedestrian. Take a moment to notice traffic patterns, don’t be distracted, and always watch for vehicles.

Pedestrian Fatalities Remain High Despite Awareness Efforts

The number of pedestrian fatalities in the United States is continually growing at a rate faster than all other traffic deaths. According to preliminary data from the first half of 2017, the Governor’s Highway Safety Association (GHSA) estimates the number of pedestrians killed in motor vehicle crashes nationwide in 2017 was 5,984, a decrease of less than one half of one percent — a number just slightly tweaked from 2016. This means, from the data available, nearly 6,000 pedestrians died in motor vehicle crashes in 2016 and 2017. While at the same time, all other traffic deaths decreased by 14 percent putting pedestrians at a higher proportion of traffic fatalities than the past 33 years.

On a national basis, other key findings from the most recent GHSA data include:

  • One-third of pedestrian fatalities occurred on local municipal streets. The second largest category of fatal pedestrian crash locations was state highways.
  • About half of the pedestrian fatalities occurred between 6:00 p.m. and midnight, with 75 percent occurring after dark.
  • Children ages 15 and younger account for about five percent of pedestrian fatalities. Nationally, adults ages 70 and over account for 14 percent of pedestrian fatalities.
  • Alcohol involvement for the driver and/or pedestrian was reported in nearly half (46 percent) of traffic crashes that resulted in pedestrian fatalities.

The projected number of U.S. pedestrian fatalities for all of 2017 was estimated based on preliminary data from the first six months of 2017, along with historic data regarding the annual number of pedestrian deaths that occurred during the first and second halves of the year.

Pedestrian Fatalities Are Typically A Result of a Driver’s Poor Choices

Many pedestrian accidents are caused by the driver of the vehicle who is distracted and fails to yield the right-of-way, leaving little room for the pedestrian to avoid the incident. In Indiana, it is the law that vehicles must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians walking within a crosswalk that are in the same half of the roadway as the vehicle or when a pedestrian is closely approaching. Other laws have been created to keep Hoosier drivers safe from pedestrian actions as well though. Those include:

  • Pedestrians may not suddenly leave the curb and enter a crosswalk into the path of a moving vehicle that is so close to constitute an immediate hazard.
  • Pedestrians must yield the right-of-way to vehicles when crossing outside of a marked crosswalk or an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection.
  • Where traffic control devices are in operation, pedestrians may only cross between two adjacent intersections in a marked crosswalk and may only cross an intersection diagonally if authorized by a traffic control device.

In most cases, even with new in-car technologies to warn of an obstacle, the driver is liable in a pedestrian-car accident. Even when the pedestrian has been negligent and carries some of the blame for an accident, the driver is often also partially at fault. Some of the more common driver errors contributing to pedestrian injuries and fatalities include:

  • Speeding, Driving Under the Influence, and Distracted Driving

These are the big three of car crashes, and they play major roles in all types of car accidents. Pedestrians are even more vulnerable to drivers engaged in one or more of these activities, and their sustained injuries can be far more serious if not fatal.

  • Failure to Make A Full Stop at Intersections

The rolling stop may feel like a harmless infraction but stop signs and traffic signals exist for a reason, namely to force drivers to stop and take full account of their surroundings and fellow drivers before moving forward. Those who do not commit to a full stop may find themselves in the way of another vehicle or may crash into people crossing at the intersection.

  • Illegal U-Turns

U-turns can be dangerous, especially in locations where they are not allowed. U-turns are often illegal in areas where low visibility or speed of traffic prevents the necessary observation for safe turning.

The Need for Mindful Pedestrians

There are ways to become a more mindful pedestrian and travel safely while walking, even in busy or congested areas. We have pulled together these easy tips for readers to review and share with others.

  • Be Seen

Take the extra precautions for walking, running, jogging, hiking, sitting, or waiting near a roadway. Stay off of freeways, restricted-access highways and other pedestrian-prohibited roadways and always walk on a sidewalk if available, and if not, walk on the shoulder, facing traffic. If it is dark, choose to wear reflective clothing and carry a flashlight.

  • Look Out

It is critical to look in all directions when crossing, even if you are at a crosswalk with a walk signal.

  • Cross in Safe Places

It is a terrible and potentially disastrous idea to dart across a road quickly because you are rushing or don’t see traffic. Unless you can see that it is clear in all directions, you should not cross.

  • Keep Your Head and Eyes Up

Avoid using distractors like phones or radios but don’t let this tip apply only to electronics. Keep your head up and stay alert to your environment, ready to act quickly if necessary.

While we certainly wish otherwise, it is not safe to assume a driver will be alert and yield the right of way to a pedestrian. Take a moment to notice traffic patterns, don’t be distracted on your phone or by conversation, and always watch for vehicles.

Drivers and Pedestrians Have a Responsibility to Keep Each Other Safe

If you or a loved one has been injured in a pedestrian related car accident, the personal injury attorneys at Wagner Reese are here to assist you. We can help determine fault in the accident, as well as work to help secure the compensation you deserve to make a full recovery.

Give us a call today at (888) 204-8440 to schedule a free consultation or speak with us by submitting our online form and our attorneys will review your information.


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