Taking an evening stroll should not cause you to fear for your life, but the sad reality is that this scenario is becoming more common, as pedestrian accidents become a growing safety issue in the U. S. The fact that these accidents tend to result in more serious, life-threatening injuries and fatalities than other kinds of car accidents, combined with the fact that they have risen significantly in recent years, is extremely concerning.
Pedestrian Deaths Are on the Rise
Between 2010 and 2019, pedestrian deaths increased a shocking 45% in the U.S., with 53,435 pedestrians being hit and killed by vehicles. The last four recorded years, 2016 through 2019, were the deadliest years on record, with more than 6,000 people killed in each of those years. That breaks out to more than 16 deaths a day, which is unacceptably high.
To make matters worse, the risk of being struck and killed by a vehicle while walking is not evenly distributed. People in low-income communities, people of color, and older adults are significantly more likely to be fatally injured. Black Americans are 82% more likely to be killed in a pedestrian accident than white Americans; Native Americans are 221% more at risk. Older Americans over 75 are more likely to be hit by a vehicle because of their challenges with vision, hearing, and movement, as well as the fact that we don’t design our streets with them in mind. Low-income neighborhoods have 2-3 times the pedestrian fatality rate of higher-income communities because they are less likely to have sidewalks or marked crosswalks. These issues are serious and need to be addressed.
Why Is This Happening?
Many factors contribute to these statistics, but the one that stands out is that transportation agencies place a higher value on getting people to and from places quickly than they do on safety. If an agency has to decide between avoiding delays for drivers and protecting the safety of pedestrians, they always choose to prioritize the drivers.
Our streets are designed in a way that is inherently unsafe for pedestrians and directly contributes to the avoidable deaths of hundreds of people. Major design flaws in our roadways include streets with wide lanes, high speed limits, and streetlights that are spaced too far apart. These three factors create an environment where people drive much faster than they should, regardless of the posted speed limit. Putting streetlights closer together, reducing the width of streets, and, of course, lowering speed limits will help create roads where drivers will naturally drive slower. Placing streetlights closer together will also provide more crosswalks and prevent jaywalking.
Crosswalks are a specific problem as many of them are hard to see, creating a hazardous situation where drivers are not aware that pedestrians will be crossing the street. Ensuring that all crosswalks are highly visible will help protect these pedestrians. Dedicated right-turn lanes are also extremely dangerous to pedestrians, which should not come as a surprise given that the only reason they exist is to help prevent cars from having to slow down and stop when they are turning.
At the end of the day, something needs to be done to prioritize the safety of pedestrians over convenience and speed. Reducing commuting time by a few minutes is not worth the life of a pedestrian.
What Should Be Done?
The government has designed our streets in a way that is unsafe for pedestrians, so it is their responsibility to take a different approach and make them safer. The only way to truly protect pedestrians from unnecessary fatalities is for the government to prioritize the design and implementation of safer roadways. To that end, we urge the federal government to pass the Complete Streets Act of 2021 which will require state and metropolitan transportation and planning agencies to take into consideration all people who use the streets, including pedestrians. The act will require the planning and development of “complete streets” meaning public roads that provide “safe and accessible options for multiple travel modes for people of all ages and abilities, including modes such as walking, cycling, transit, automobiles, and freight.” Passage of this bill— which will finally require states and metro areas to design and build safer streets for everyone—is essential if we want to avert the current safety crisis and make the U. S. a safer place to go for a walk.
The Collins Law Firm is a highly regarded, nationally recognized, trusted personal injury firm in Naperville, IL. If you have been injured in a pedestrian accident, our dedicated and experienced car accident lawyers are here to help. We will guide you through the legal system and get you much better results than if you try to negotiate for yourself. There is literally nothing to lose because you pay us nothing unless we recover money for you. Call us at (630) 527-1595 or fill out our contact form today.