We don’t walk enough. Period. Cities are not set up as pedestrian friendly as they should be, and experts have indicated time and again that our reluctance to put one foot in front of another contributes to our obesity problem in this country.
So there shouldn’t be very many incidents where pedestrians are struck by vehicles, right? Not at all. There’s poor “walkability” all over the country — there aren’t enough sidewalks for pedestrians to use, and people aren’t used to dealing with pedestrians. That’s why there are still too many accidents in which pedestrians are struck by vehicles. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that more than 70K pedestrians were injured in traffic accidents in 2010 and 4,280 were killed. Although there was a 49% decline in pedestrian deaths between 1990 and 2000, part of the reason for that isn’t just attributed to educational initiatives or increased law enforcement — a large factor is probably that people simply don’t walk as often. According to the SAFE Kids Organization, almost 50% of children biked or walked to school in 1969. By 1995, barely 10% of children did so. While pedestrians normally have the right of way, they also have laws they need to follow and should always use common sense when walking, especially if an area is not pedestrian friendly. Drivers have a responsibility too though — they need to approach pedestrians carefully and practice safe driving habits.
What Are the Chances?
Traveling at just 10 mph, you can cause injury to a pedestrian, but often the lowest speed limit posted in towns is 25 mph. At that rate of speed, if you hit a pedestrian, chances are that the injuries sustained are going to be serious and possibly life threatening, as the chance of fatality is only under 5% at speeds of 20 mph or less, according to the NHTSA. When a pedestrian is struck by a vehicle going 30 mph or faster, the chance of death increases by 45%, and an additional 10 mph increases the chance of death by 85%.
If you have the unfortunate experience of hitting a pedestrian, you are probably in some form of panic mode. Step back and take a breath because any rash reaction isn’t going to help you or the victim. Unless you swerved to avoid the pedestrian and flipped your car or ran into a tree, you probably aren’t going to have any injuries. So the most important thing you can do is check the other party. Depending on the severity of the injuries, try to get the pedestrian out of harm’s way and into a safe place. If you’re afraid that moving the pedestrian could only increase the injury, try to wave cars around the accident scene while you call for help. If you’re lucky, maybe passing drivers will come to your assistance.
You need to call the police, 911, and your insurance companies. There are going to be lots of people asking you many questions and it can be overwhelming especially if it’s a serious accident. It may be hard but try to remain as calm as possible and tell the truth. Eventually, someone is going to be held accountable for the accident and you don’t want to face any further charges if you are the responsible party who also lied.
When trying to figure out who caused the accident, the term “negligence” will come up. Negligence is defined as “the failure to exercise that degree of care that, in the circumstances, the law requires for the protection of other persons or those interests of other persons that may be injuriously affected by the want of such care.” So if you ran a stop light while a pedestrian was crossing the road, you would be deemed negligent and the accident would be your fault. On the other hand, if you were driving the speed limit and a pedestrian shot across the street without any kind of established walkway, they may be deemed negligent because there was no reason for you to suspect a pedestrian. After the accident, you must call the police because it’s their report that is going to be used to determine who was at fault. Many times, it’s the driver’s fault but pedestrians are not typically classified as victims. According to the Insurance Information Institute (III) a 2002 study of “pedestrian deaths in Baltimore and Washington, D.C., revealed that pedestrians were more likely than drivers to be judged at fault in these collisions (50% versus 39% …).”
If you’re facing criminal charges for a pedestrian accident, it’s best you contact a personal attorney. While you are going to be dealing with legal issues, you will also need to handle insurance matters and if you’re at fault, you’re responsible for paying the insurance claims.
First, your insurance company needs to determine fault. They will take the police report into account, but many times, an insurance company sends out their representatives either immediately following the accident or later, to assess the damage on an individual basis. If you think that your insurance company may claim you’re at fault when others are still trying to determine fault, contact your personal attorney.
The pedestrian’s injuries can be covered two ways: health insurance or auto insurance. If the pedestrian is at fault, they will need to use their own health insurance to cover any medical issues. If they were on the job, they may qualify for worker’s compensation, but fault may play into whether they are eligible for coverage under those circumstances.
If the driver is responsible for causing the accident, the pedestrian will need to file a claim with the driver’s auto insurance company. This will be filed under your liability insurance but it’s important to make sure that your limits are higher than that which is required by law. The medical bills alone could exceed your liability limits and you are expected to pay the rest out of pocket. If you have a large amount of assets to protect, consider buying umbrella insurance. It’s made specifically for incidents like this where you stand to lose a lot for something you did. Coverage for these types of incidents varies in states with no-fault coverage. Check with your individual insurance company to learn how to protect yourself.
The best thing you can do to avoid pedestrian accidents is to utilize defensive driving techniques, and that doesn’t mean “I ran into my ex – I put it into reverse and did it again.”
Follow Desiree on Twitter @DesireeBaughman.