A 14-year-old Security, Colorado teen was jogging through the intersection, something he had done dozen of times before. But, this time, as he entered the crosswalk he was hit by a car. Despite hitting his back, head, neck and legs, the teen only suffered cuts and bruises.
Now his mom, Isabella Telles, is demanding change. She said this isn’t the first time there has been an accident at the intersection, but the problem is more than visibility or even people speeding, it’s the duration of the lights. Telles said she evaluated the intersection and found that there is only 4 seconds to walk across the street. After contacting News 5, they took her concerns to county traffic engineers who said Telles wasn’t looking at the total time, which is 20 seconds – 4 seconds of the walk signal followed by 15 seconds of a blinking signal, which means ‘make your way out of the intersection’.
Telles went back out to the intersection and tested again. She said the county was correct, but still believes the intersection is dangerous. The question now – is 20 seconds long enough to cross the busy street? The county said they would look into it, leaving Telles hopeful for change so that what happened to her son, or worse, does not happen to someone else.
In 2014, 4,884 pedestrians were killed and approximately 65,000 injured in motor vehicle crashes on public roadways in the United States, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Twenty-six percent of pedestrian deaths occurred at intersections. A greater percentage of older pedestrian deaths occurred at intersections when compared with deaths of pedestrians under age 70 (40 percent versus 23 percent). This is partly because older pedestrians generally cross intersections more slowly.
When intersections and crosswalks are the site of serious or fatal auto-pedestrian accidents and a lawsuit is filed, one issue that will be considered is whether the government failed to fulfill its obligation of making the area safe. We see this not only on our roads, but in product development, hospitals and other settings. Holding those who create dangerous conditions (or allow known dangers to continue without public warning) accountable for their actions, improves safety, saves lives, and prevents serious injuries. But, why must we wait for a lawsuit to force safety improvements and save lives?
With the aging population and the increase in health-conscious Americans, maybe extending the time available for pedestrians to cross at intersections with signals can be beneficial. But, regardless of what measures, if any, the county takes, there is plenty that pedestrians and drivers can do. Here are a few safety tips from the NHTSA.
- Whenever possible, cross the street at a designated crosswalk or intersection.
- Increase your visibility at night by carrying a flashlight and wearing retro-reflective clothing. Never assume drivers see you.
- It’s safest to walk on a sidewalk, but if one is not available, walk on the shoulder and face traffic.
- Avoid distractions such as electronic devices that take your attention off the road
- Always stop for pedestrians in crosswalks, and stop well back from the crosswalk to give other vehicles an opportunity to see the crossing pedestrians so they can stop, too.
- Never pass vehicles stopped at a crosswalk. They are stopped to allow pedestrians to cross the street.
- Be especially vigilant for pedestrians in hard-to-see conditions, such as night time or in bad weather.
- Follow the speed limit, especially around pedestrians, in school zones and in neighborhoods where there are children present.
So, before putting your foot on the gas or in front of the other, think safety first.
Mark Bello is the CEO and General Counsel of Lawsuit Financial Corporation, a pro-justice lawsuit funding company.
Attorney, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Betrayal Series. Mark Bello is also a member of the State Bar of Michigan, a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice, and a member of the American Association for Justice.