Why Are Pedestrian Deaths at a 40-Year High?

The US has gotten markedly safer over the last 20 years. Homicide, suicide, and even unintentional injury fatalities have fallen over time, and the average national life expectancy has risen from 76 to 79 years. However, there’s one glaring exception to this trend: pedestrian fatalities are the highest they’ve been at any point since 1981.

Why are pedestrian deaths so much more likely now when every other type of accidental fatality is falling? That’s a good question. A new report by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) has identified several reasons for the rise in fatal accidents. Here’s what you need to know about why pedestrians are in more danger than ever and what you can do if you’ve lost a loved one in a pedestrian accident.

What the Numbers Say About Rising Pedestrian Deaths

Numbers don’t lie. According to the most recent report by the GHSA, a well-known safety nonprofit, pedestrian fatalities have risen from just 4,302 in 2010 to an estimated 7,508 in 2022, the highest number since 1981. As numbers are finalized, the 2022 fatality rate may climb even higher. 

That’s an increase of 77% in just twelve years, when the US population has grown only 8% over the same time. The increase is particularly shocking because, before 2010, deaths had been falling slowly but steadily for decades. 

In contrast, while traffic deaths are also rising, they have not increased nearly as sharply. All other traffic fatalities have increased by 25% since 2010, less than a third as quickly as pedestrian deaths. Something is putting people who choose to walk and bike at greater risk of death – but what is it?

Why Are Fatalities Rising So Fast?

When a trend changes so quickly and dramatically, there’s often more than one factor at play. This is certainly the case for the rising pedestrian death rate. The GHSA report identifies three well-known factors that play important roles in the increasing death rates:

  • Popularity of SUVs and Trucks: Since 2010, SUVs and pickup trucks have become significantly more popular. They are also more dangerous for pedestrians. They are higher off the ground, so they are more likely to hit people in the chest or run them over. Their height makes it harder for drivers to spot pedestrians directly in front of the vehicle. Finally, their size makes them less maneuverable, so even the best drivers find it harder to stop in time to save a life.
  • Poor Infrastructure: The number of deaths occurring during the day and in the presence of sidewalks have remained stable over time. In contrast, deaths in areas without sidewalks or adequate nighttime lighting have skyrocketed. This suggests that infrastructure increasingly fails to consider pedestrian safety, and it’s putting people at risk.
  • Dangerous Drivers: Pedestrian behavior hasn’t changed much, but driver behavior has. Since the widespread adoption of smartphones around 2010, drivers are more likely to be distracted than ever before. Even brief distractions like checking a text or changing a song can be fatal for the unlucky walker.

In short, deaths are rising because the roads are filled with bigger vehicles driven by more distracted people, and infrastructure projects have failed to give pedestrians safer ways to travel. 

What Can You Do If Your Loved One Was Killed in a Pedestrian Accident?

As fatality rates rise, it is increasingly likely that you will lose a loved one to an avoidable traffic accident. While you may be unable to prevent the crash, you can hold the driver accountable for your loved one’s death. The best way to accomplish this is by filing a wrongful death claim on their behalf. 

Who Has Standing to File Wrongful Death Claims?

In California, only certain people have standing to file a wrongful death claim. This is intended to limit lawsuits to those directly impacted by the death. You can file a lawsuit if you were one of the following to the deceased:

  • Parent
  • Child
  • Spouse or domestic partner
  • Grandchild
  • Dependent minor

You can also file if you otherwise had the right to inherit from the deceased. 

Determining Liability for a Death

If you have standing to make a claim, you must determine who is likely liable for the loss of your loved one. This is most commonly the driver who hit them, but other parties could share responsibility, such as:

  • The driver’s employer, if they were on the clock
  • The vehicle manufacturer, if there was a defect in the design that contributed to the accident
  • The municipality, if it failed to maintain safe conditions for pedestrians or adequate signage for drivers

Including all potentially liable parties in your claim is important to maximize the likelihood that you receive full compensation for your losses. 

Filing Your Claim

Once you have determined who may be at fault for your loved one’s death, you can prepare to file your claim. The first step is discussing your case with an experienced wrongful death attorney. Your lawyer will advise you on whether you have a strong case and represent you to insurance companies and in court. 

With your attorney’s help, you will submit your claim and notify the potentially liable parties that you are filing a lawsuit. From there, you may negotiate a settlement with one or more parties or go to trial to have them held accountable for your loved one’s death. Should your case succeed, you may receive damages to compensate you for your loved one’s medical and funeral expenses, lost income, lost support, and your own pain and suffering.

Compassionate Legal Counsel for Your Pedestrian Wrongful Death Claim

More people are going through the nightmare of losing loved ones to pedestrian accidents than any year since 1981. If you’ve experienced this pain, you can seek justice for their death with help from the pedestrian accident lawyers at Law Office of Reuben J. Donig. Reach out to our San Carlos, California, wrongful death law firm to discuss your case and begin your claim.

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