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Pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists must remain vigilant and aware at all times in order to prevent accidents. The high number of fatalities in pedestrian and cycling related accidents make it especially important for all parties to be aware of the primary causes of these accidents and how to avoid them.
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Last modified on: May 9th, 2020
Pedestrians and cyclists face numerous dangers when they are near fast moving vehicles. Whether on a busy highway, a residential street, or a quiet country road, vehicles moving at speed are a major cause of injuries and fatalities. According to the CDC, nearly 6,000 pedestrians were killed by moving vehicles in 2017. An additional 137,000 were treated for nonfatal injuries caused by accidents with motor vehicles. Due to the high speed of moving vehicles and the lack of protection for pedestrians, they have a 1.5 greater likelihood of being killed in a car accident.
Likewise, cyclists are in danger from motor vehicles while on the road. In 2018, the NHTSA reported 857 cyclist fatalities due to motor vehicles, and more than 400,000 injuries. The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) found that bicycle accidents have increased steadily since 2010, and 72% of those accidents occur in urban areas, where there is greater motor traffic.
With this in mind, it is critical that pedestrians and cyclists be aware of the risks inherent in walking and biking in certain conditions. It is equally important for motorists to be aware that pedestrians and cyclists may be on any road at any time, day or night. Close attention to lighting, traffic, and other environmental factors can make all the difference when it comes to the safety of pedestrians and cyclists.
Although accidents can occur at any time, in any location where vehicles are operating at speed, there are certain factors that heighten the risk of an accident. Below is a short summary of conditions that can greatly affect your safety on the road.
According to the NHTSA, the vast majority of pedestrian injuries occur after dark, when visibility is limited for drivers on the road. The same goes for cyclists who may be less visible, regardless of whether or not they are in a bike lane.
If you are walking or biking by night, consider wearing light colored clothing, reflective materials, and flashing lights. All of these items will make you more visible on a nighttime road. If you are not on the road by necessity, consider taking your walk or bike ride earlier in the day, when motorists will be better able to see you. Motorists should remain especially alert at night and drive more slowly to ensure sufficient time to brake if a cyclist or pedestrian appears.
Per the CDC, fully 47% of accidents that caused pedestrian fatalities in 2017 involved alcohol consumption on the part of either the driver or pedestrian. In fact, in 33% of those accidents, the pedestrian was intoxicated, while only 17% involved drunk drivers. Alcohol is equally deadly for cyclists. According to the GHSA, 22% of cyclists who were fatally injured in 2015 had a blood alcohol content of .08 or greater, while 12% of motorists were intoxicated.
These numbers are particularly important when you consider that individuals who choose not to drive drunk may still get into accidents due to their level of inebriation. Coupled with the fact that many people are drinking after dark, and you have a dangerous combination. To avoid accidents due to alcohol use, consider designating a sober driver at the beginning of your night out, or use a ride share. Whether you’re walking, cycling, or driving, it is never safe to be on the road when you are intoxicated.
Age is a major factor in pedestrian and cyclist injuries and fatalities. In 2017, older pedestrians over 65 years of age made up 20% of pedestrian fatalities and 10% of pedestrian injuries. Pedestrian children accounted for a significant number of pedestrian deaths, as well with 1 in 5 child traffic fatalities involving child pedestrians.
When considering a route for a child or elderly pedestrian or biker, take into account the amount of traffic and the ease with which they may become disoriented or distracted. Consider planning a route that is away from major traffic areas, with clearly delineated directions and signs. The Federal Highway Administration recently developed their Bicycle and Pedestrian Program to help walkers and cyclists navigate safely.
The severity of an accident with a pedestrian or biker can be greatly exacerbated at higher speeds. Per AAA, the risk of fatality in a motor vehicle accident involving a pedestrian increases significantly as the speed of the vehicle increases. Areas where vehicles are traveling at higher speeds are more dangerous to both bikers and pedestrians, so all parties should pay especial attention. Motorists who see bikers or pedestrians on the side of the road should slow and be prepared to stop, in case the pedestrian or cyclists unexpectedly falls or moves in front of the vehicle.
Location is a key factor in the severity and likelihood of motor accidents involving pedestrians and cyclists. The CDC reports that most fatal accidents involving pedestrians occur in urban settings, in areas without intersections. Considering the higher population density and potential for greater speed when no intersections are present, it is unsurprising that these areas are high risk.
If you are walking or cycling in a high risk location, be sure to wear bright, reflective clothing and stay out of the center of the road. If there is no bike lane or sidewalk, move as far to the side of the road as possible, and walk facing oncoming traffic, so that you can move out of the way if necessary. Avoid these areas at night when risk is especially high. Motorists should keep an eye out for pedestrians and bikers who may have to share the road. Be sure to moderate your speed as you pass pedestrians and cyclists.
Pedestrians and cyclists are in almost constant danger of accidents when they are walking or riding in proximity with motor vehicles. Remain vigilant and aware of your surroundings at all times, and keep the following tips in mind:
If you are in an accident as a pedestrian or cyclist, it is important to see a medical professional. Concussions and other head injuries are extremely common in pedestrian and cyclist accidents, and they often will not present with immediate symptoms, even when serious. As with any accident, be sure to file a report with the authorities and document everything pertaining to the accident, including the names and contact information for parties involved, location, and a detailed description of the incident. Once you have been treated for any injuries, contact your legal advisor to determine whether you should pursue litigation.
Motorists should ensure that they are taking all precautions in order to avoid hitting a pedestrian or cyclist. If you are in an accident that involves one or the other, pull over immediately and check on them. Call the police and an ambulance if necessary. Be sure to document everything that occurred in detail and file a police report. Contact your attorney to determine whether any legal action is needed.