When a pedestrian is struck by several thousand pounds of metal and glass, even a low-speed crash carries a high potential for serious injury and even death. According to the Utah Department of Transportation’s website, the state has had a total of 45 auto-pedestrian accidents this year alone, five of which (all fatal) occurred in the past two weeks.
- A woman was hit and killed by a car at 6 a.m. while walking home on a dark section of road with no sidewalks. Police said the road was “very dark” and the woman was wearing dark clothing.
- A 50-year-old woman was hit and killed as she walked to her car on a dimly lit road with no sidewalks.
- A 16-year-old high school student was hit and killed while crossing the street on a rainy day. There were no crosswalks where the teen was walking. Police said he was wearing dark clothing.
- A 5-year-old was hit and killed after darting into a parking lot when her mother arrived to pick her up from preschool.
- A teenager was hit by two cars and killed while walking to school.
From 2010 to 2013, the number of fatal auto-pedestrian incidents in Utah ranged from 28 to 30 each year. That jumped to 37 in 2014. That’s in addition to nearly 100 pedestrians who have been seriously injured each year for the past five years, according to UDOT’s statistics.
This problem is not isolated to Utah. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were 4,743 pedestrians killed and 76,000 injured in 2012 due to auto accidents. Furthermore, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that there is an automobile-related pedestrian death every 2 hours and an injury every 7 minutes in the United States.
These accidents clearly highlight the importance of taking great care whenever walking along, or crossing, a roadway. Any time pedestrians are on the road, they can be at risk of an accident with a motor vehicle – even when walking in marked crosswalks. It is never safe to assume that a driver sees a pedestrian, particularly at night, or that merely being in a crosswalk provides protection.
Here are some precautions pedestrians can take to protect themselves, and to increase their visibility to motorists.
- Cross the street only at intersections or marked crosswalks.
- Do not cross in the middle of a street or between cars.
- Avoid walking on roads without sidewalks and crosswalks, but if you must, remain on or as close to the shoulder as possible and walk facing traffic.
- Always look both ways before crossing the street – even if it is not a busy intersection. Continuously watch for traffic as you cross the street.
- Strive to be as visible as possible. Wear reflective or bright clothing in the dark.
- Do not assume that cars are driving slowly enough for you to cross or for them to stop.
- Child pedestrians should always have a parent or guardian to assist them in crossing the street.
For motorists, it is important to remember to:
- Pay particular attention at crosswalks.
- Pay attention to traffic controls.
- Yield to pedestrians already crossing the road, even if not at the crosswalk.
- Be attentive especially around schools and neighborhoods where children are present.
- Do not assume the pedestrian sees (or hears) you.
- Stay aware of your surroundings especially during the winter months when it gets darker earlier.
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.