How Safe is Walking for Pedestrians?

Millions of people walk the streets of America every day. Some people have no other transportation and have no choice. Others drive when they can, but still must walk to and from a parking lot, or to a restaurant at lunch.

Plus, it seems that many Americans and Oregonians are choosing to walk more, attempting to improve their own health and the health of the environment. For example, each day we observe pedestrians counting their steps or mileage with special watches and smart phones with GPS applications. We also see people trying to lessen their carbon footprint by living in mixed use developments, using public transportation, and walking everywhere that they can.

But much of this walking requires the use of sidewalks or paths beside public roads, and crossing busy intersections. Has all of this walking produced an increased awareness by drivers to be careful around pedestrians? Or is it dangerous to walk? We’ll address some of the trends in this article.

The Numbers Tell a Sobering Story

According to research cited by Forbes, in 2016 almost 6000 pedestrians died across the United States after being struck in a motor vehicle crash. It represented the highest pedestrian death toll in 25 years. Unfortunately, 2016 turned out not to be a blip in the data. In 2017, the number of pedestrian deaths was almost unchanged.

According to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), in recent years United States pedestrian fatalities have grown “substantially faster” than other traffic deaths. The report notes that from 2007 to 2016 the pedestrian death rate increased 27 percent. By way of comparison, all other traffic-related deaths decreased 14 percent. The U.S. average for pedestrian deaths totaled 1.92 per 100,000 in population. Oregon scored slightly better than average, with 1.81 deaths per 100,000 in population. And it’s not just big highways. Thirty-three percent of fatalities occurred on local streets in municipalities. Far more deaths occurred at night, and in Oregon, 32 percent of fatalities occurred at intersections.

Injuries in Pedestrian Accidents

The statistics above focus on fatalities. Many other people survive the accident, but suffer serious injury. After all, a pedestrian has absolutely no protection when struck by a car, motorcycle, semi-truck, or any other motor vehicle. In fact, according to one trauma surgeon, pedestrian injuries can be some of the worst. The size and height of a vehicle can play a big role in determining which part of the pedestrian’s body is likely to be injured in a crash.

Who Is at Fault for a Pedestrian Injury?

The law requires all drivers to exercise reasonable care in the operation of their motor vehicles. While it is true that pedestrians sometimes walk into the street without paying attention, they are often struck by drivers who are distracted, driving too fast for the existing conditions, or violating other traffic laws. If the driver of a motor vehicle fails to exercise reasonable care, strikes a pedestrian, and causes injuries, the driver is negligent and can be held accountable under the law. If you are struck by a motor vehicle, never assume that you did anything wrong. Consult with an attorney who is experienced in investigating such accidents.

Call with Questions

If you’ve been injured as a pedestrian, you may have questions about the investigation of the accident, insurance coverages, medical treatment, or the law in general. We would be happy to receive your phone call and answer your questions. At Nelson MacNeil Rayfield, our personal injury lawyers are experienced with the law and procedures related to pedestrian lawsuits and settlements. We believe that it’s essential to hold negligent drivers accountable for their wrongful acts so that all of society is made safer.


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