Almost everyone spends time as a pedestrian. You’re considered a pedestrian whether you walk everywhere or just run across the street for a coffee. That’s a problem because in 2018, California’s pedestrian fatality rate was nearly 25% higher than the national average, according to the California Offices of Traffic Safety (OTS).
Unsurprisingly, pedestrians are at greater risk from traffic accidents than people driving or riding public transport. Pedestrians don’t have the protection of airbags, seatbelts, or steel to shield them from the force of a crash. However, that doesn’t explain why California’s fatality rate for walkers is so much higher than the rest of the country.
There are likely several reasons why pedestrians are at greater risk in California, from infrastructure problems to driver attitudes. As a pedestrian, you can’t fix these issues. What you can do is understand why pedestrians get hurt or killed and learn how to avoid similar situations to stay safe. Here are five of California’s most common causes of pedestrian deaths and injuries and how you can protect yourself.
5 Common Reasons for Pedestrian Fatalities
Traffic is the most significant risk you face when you’re walking somewhere. All it takes is a single driver who doesn’t see you in time to suffer a life-changing accident. The following situations are among the most common reasons pedestrians get hurt or killed during their daily routine.
California has developed a significant reckless driving program in recent years. Statistics show that over the course of the pandemic, many drivers have become more reckless in general. Temporarily emptier roads encouraged drivers to speed more frequently, ignore traffic rules more often, and generally misbehave behind the wheel.
While reckless driving is dangerous for everyone, pedestrians suffer the most. As the speed of an accident increases, the likelihood that it’s fatal for the walking person skyrockets. Accident mortality is more than five times higher in accidents at 40 mph compared to 25 mph. Speeding also makes it harder for drivers to slow down in time if they see someone enter the road.
Drivers face more distractions than ever. Cellphones tempt many drivers to take phone calls, send texts, or even play games when their full attention should be on the road. In urban areas, this is a serious danger to other road users.
It doesn’t take much for a distraction to lead to an accident. A driver who misses a red light or doesn’t spot a stop sign can plow through an intersection that was supposedly safe to cross. Anyone using the crosswalk could easily be hit by these inattentive drivers.
Driving Under the Influence
Drunk driving is well-known for being dangerous, but alcohol is far from the only substance that can impair one’s ability to drive. Cannabis also affects reaction times and decision-making skills, making it harder for drivers to respond to pedestrians. Many prescription medications can also make driving more dangerous by making people tired and less attentive. Illegal drugs can cause similar issues or make drivers more aggressive and prone to making impulsive choices that put others at risk.
Poor Weather Conditions
Rain and fog can significantly decrease visibility, especially at night. Even good drivers may struggle to follow traffic signs and react to changing circumstances in these poor weather conditions. If someone is driving drunk or distracted, poor visibility makes crashes significantly more likely because the driver is unlikely to be able to stop in time when they finally see a pedestrian.
In some cases, pedestrians may be partially at fault for accidents. Ignoring traffic signals, walking along roads without sidewalks, or running into the street all put you at greater risk. Your responsibility is to protect yourself, just as drivers are responsible for watching out for you.
Avoiding Accidents as a Pedestrian
No matter why you choose to walk, you’re at risk from bad drivers. You can’t control the actions of everyone behind the wheel. Still, there are several ways you can protect yourself and potentially make dangerous accidents less likely.
- Always follow traffic signals. Use marked intersections to cross the street. If there’s a “walk” signal, wait until it indicates it’s your turn to walk. Avoid jaywalking whenever possible. Drivers are less likely to look for pedestrians outside of crosswalks, so you’re more likely to be hit if you cross elsewhere.
- Keep to sidewalks and marked paths. Try to avoid walking along roads without sidewalks. These streets often have higher speed limits and less space between you and traffic, putting you at greater risk.
- Make yourself visible. Wear bright colors or reflective clothing to make yourself harder to miss. Avoid wearing dark-colored clothing, especially if you often walk at night.
- Avoid walking in poor conditions. The time between dusk and dawn is the most dangerous for pedestrians. Avoid walking when it’s dark or if there’s rain or fog because you’re much harder to see. If you do need to walk in these conditions, consider bringing a flashlight in addition to bright clothing.
There’s no guarantee that following these rules will protect you from getting hurt. However, if you do follow them, you minimize the chances that you’re considered partially liable for your own injuries after your car accident.
Get Help After Your Accident
California’s pedestrian fatality problem will take significant effort to fix. In the meantime, there’s only so much you can do to protect yourself. If you’re cautious about where you walk, follow traffic laws, and make sure you’re easy to see, you may be able to reduce the risk of getting hit. If the worst happens, pursuing compensation for your injuries will be significantly easier.
At the Law Office of Reuben J. Donig, we are prepared to take action on your behalf after your accident. We will help you file your claim and advocate on your behalf through the entire process. Schedule your consultation today to learn how we can help you pursue just compensation for your car crash injuries.