May 23, 2022
Pedestrian Accidents: Causes, Statistics & Prevention
By Jonathan Damashek
Each year in New York, more than 250 pedestrians are involved in fatal accidents with motor vehicles, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Many of those deaths could have been avoided.
Pedestrian Accident Types & Liability in NYC
Pedestrian accidents can occur in any number of ways. In most, the driver is at fault, but not always.
By far, the most common pedestrian accident situations involve cars vs. pedestrians. Typically, the driver is expected to keep a lookout for pedestrians and avoid accidents. When the driver is responsible for a collision, their insurance company is financially liable.
Crosswalk accidents are also common. When a pedestrian is within a crosswalk and moving across the road legally, the car’s driver is nearly always responsible.
Drivers may also hit people when they are backing up. This is common in parking lots. Since drivers are expected to keep a lookout while reversing, they are typically at fault for backup accidents.
Drivers making turns often fail to look out for pedestrians in the roadway. Drivers are often so busy looking for cars around them that they fail to look to the sides of the road and in crosswalks right in the path of their turn.
Children are Common Pedestrians in New York
Children are often the victims of pedestrian accidents. Because children often do not have the mental capacity to keep a lookout, drivers may be found liable. However, that is not always the case. If an older child was playing in a roadway or riding their bike on the road and the driver had no warning, they may not be fully responsible.
Children at school bus crossings are also at risk. When a school bus has its red lights flashing, approaching cars and those behind it must stop. Failure to stop results in automatic liability should a child be injured.
Rules of the Road– Right of Way Explained
Regardless of specific laws, drivers should always be on the lookout for pedestrians. However, there are certain situations where pedestrians definitively have the right of way, including:
- In all crosswalks
- At intersections with marked or unmarked crosswalks
- At intersections when the pedestrian traffic signal is in the “Walk” phase
Typical Pedestrian Injuries
Pedestrians who are hit by a motor vehicle will almost certainly be injured. According to an article published in the California Journal of Emergency Medicine, the most common pedestrian injuries include:
- Head and neck injuries
- Musculoskeletal injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal injuries
- Chest and abdominal injuries
- Leg and knee injuries
Many pedestrian accident injuries are life-threatening and can be fatal for victims.
Common Causes of Pedestrian Accidents in New York
Many factors can contribute to these accidents. But like other motor vehicle crashes, pedestrian accidents are primarily caused by driver error.
Some of the most common causes of pedestrian accidents include:
Alcohol-Impaired Drivers & Pedestrians
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly half (47%) of all fatal pedestrian accidents involve alcohol. In 33% of those crashes, the pedestrian had a blood-alcohol level of over 0.08 g/DL, indicating intoxication. Many of those pedestrian accidents involved alcohol impairment in both the pedestrian and the driver.
Another common cause of pedestrian accidents is speeding. The higher the vehicle’s speed, the more likely the pedestrian will be severely injured, or the accident will be fatal.
Distracted driving is an epidemic. According to Trusted Choice, as many as 20% of crashes are caused by driver inattention. Distracted drivers often fail to adhere to traffic lights, including pedestrian signs. They also fail to see pedestrians in and out of crosswalks.
Failure to Yield Right of Way
The NHTSA reported that motor vehicle drivers’ failure to yield right of way to pedestrians is another common cause of accidents. Pedestrians have the right of way when they have a traffic light or sign indicating they can walk and remain in a crosswalk. Even when pedestrians are not in a crosswalk, they should be avoided, and drivers should lookout.
Drivers may have poor visibility due to inclement weather like fog or rain, or curves in the road may obscure a pedestrian crossing. Drivers should always keep their lights on and carefully approach curves in the road to be aware of people who may be crossing.
Pedestrian Accidents: Facts & Figures
Many factors increase the risk of someone being involved in a pedestrian accident. The CDC indicates that people over 65 are at a higher risk of pedestrian accidents. This group accounted for 20% of pedestrian deaths and 10% of all pedestrian injuries in 2017 (the most recent statistics available).
Children under the age of 15 also have a high risk of being in a pedestrian accident. In 2017, one in every five children killed in traffic crashes were pedestrians.
The CDC reported that the higher the vehicle’s speed, the more likely a pedestrian would be struck and have a severe injury. When speeding, drivers may not be able to stop in time for a pedestrian.
Most pedestrian deaths throughout the United States occurred in urban areas, at non-intersection locations, and night. On the other hand, in NYC, intersections result in 70% of pedestrian accident injuries and 50% of all pedestrian deaths.
Ways to Prevent Pedestrian Accidents
Both drivers and pedestrians can take action to prevent accidents. Drivers should remain aware of their surroundings and maintain safe driving practices. Some actions pedestrians can take to prevent accidents include:
- Carry a flashlight at night or wear a reflective vest
- Cross streets in designated crosswalks
- Follow pedestrian light signage and traffic lights
- Walk on sidewalks and paths instead of the road
- Avoid the use of earbuds when walking
- Avoid drug and alcohol use that may impair judgment
NYC Initiatives to Reduce Pedestrian Accidents
Many large cities have seen a recent increase in pedestrian accidents. To combat this trend, the City of New York, for instance, has begun an initiative to reduce accidents and injuries. Some steps to be taken include:
- Design improvements to 1,000 NYC intersections to make them safer for pedestrians
- Expanded NYPD enforcement against drivers who fail to adhere to pedestrian traffic laws
- Raised crosswalks to improve awareness of where pedestrians should cross
- Installation of 10,000 bicycle racks by the end of 2022
- Increased attention to parking lots and gasoline stations, reducing “shortcuts.”
- More enforcement of speeds at turns and intersections
Legal Options If You Are Injured in a Pedestrian Accident in New York
If you are injured in a pedestrian accident, you have legal rights. In most cases, you can recover compensation from the driver’s insurance company that caused your accident. This is a personal injury lawsuit, and you may be able to obtain money to cover:
- Past and future medical bills
- Lost wages
- Loss of earning capacity
- Property damage
- Physical limitations
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Emotional distress
- Loss of consortium
Keep NY Roads Safe for Pedestrians
Drivers and government officials should work hard to maintain safety for pedestrians in NYC and throughout the United States. If you are injured, you have options for recovery. In NYC, call a skilled pedestrian accident lawyer at Hecht, Kleeger & Damashek at 212-490-5700, or use our online form to reach out today.