When a Pedestrian is Struck
Each year, over 4,000 Americans are killed by vehicles while walking. That is about 11 people, each day of the year. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) also reports that nearly 60,000 pedestrians will be injured each year, amounting to about one every 9 minutes.
Many of the pedestrians we have represented, against negligent drivers’ insurance companies, were lawfully in crosswalks. It is a painful reality that catastrophic injuries can be caused even if a car is travelling at a low speed.
Most of these collisions, between the human frame and two tons of metal, occur in urban areas. The majority of negligent drivers we have brought claims against have been male. Drivers who fail to be on the alert for pedestrians, usually ignore multiple signs and warnings. It is common for independent witnesses to say they observed the driver operating their vehicle too fast for the conditions.
In pedestrian knock-down situations, police are aggressive in administering tests to determine if alcohol or drugs are involved. However, often these drivers are merely distracted with changing their radio dial or using their cell phone. Most of the clients in our practice, have been injured more because of driver inattention than any other reason.
We also have found that in many of these situations, the driver already had an established record of driving irresponsibility. Since only high-risk insurers will cover them, they often have limited policy coverage or no coverage at all. And so it is necessary to turn against the underinsured or uninsured provisions of the pedestrian’s own auto policy.
The Crosswalk Should Be a Zone of Safety
Crosswalks are designed by traffic engineers who have specialized knowledge of vehicle flow patterns. They are to be safety zones for pedestrians, many of whom are children or are elderly. Sadly, crosswalks can be some of the most dangerous places people can find themselves. Children should be trained to be acutely aware of surrounding vehicles and never assume that motorists will drive properly. Walking defensively means paying strict attention to any approaching vehicles, at all times.
The law recognizes that pedestrians are at a tremendous disadvantage. The slightest impact between a car and a pedestrian can result in catastrophic injury or death. Even the adjacent sidewalks are not safe. Out of control cars sometimes strike individuals not even in a crosswalk.
Predictable Hazards Which Invite Tragedy
Pedestrian fatalities account for more than 12 percent of all roadway deaths. And, of those, 70 percent of the victims are male. Most of the pedestrian fatalities studied by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety were struck between 6pm and midnight on Friday and Saturday nights.
It is not surprising that alcohol plays a large role in these dismal statistics. Of those killed pedestrians over the age of 16, nearly 40% have been found to have blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) over the illegal 0.008 percent limit. Drinking and walking also are a dangerous mix.
In our practice, it seems that the precipitating factor as to injured children is their wrong assumption that the drivers will watch out for them. For older people, they often have diminished vision, hearing and reaction times, which help to contribute to the mishaps.
Health professionals correctly argue that walking helps to prevent heart attacks and strokes, and many people are walking. This is good news, despite the associated risks. Statistics underscore, however, that pedestrians are generally more likely than drivers to be at fault. This is especially true of children, who often dart out or walk against the crossing light. Elderly pedestrians are struck less often than children, but are more likely to get killed.
The Danger of Right Hand Turns
One of the common forms of pedestrian-car collision involves the driver negligently making a right-hand turn. Too many drivers are concerned with the traffic from their left. With their attention diverted, they negligently begin to execute their right turn – while failing to maintain a lookout.
Pedestrians get thrown onto the hood of the car, slamming into the windshield and rolling off to the street. Some pedestrians are pushed under the wheels of the car.
SUVs, pick-up trucks and other large vehicles make up a sizeable number of the non-commercial, passenger vehicles. They have large front ends and are built farther up from the road. Those pedestrians hit often do not get thrown onto the hood, because the vehicles are built higher. Rather they tend to get knocked directly to the asphalt because of the vehicles’ elevated front ends.