On October 1st, 2020, we published a blog regarding pedestrian safety in honor of National Pedestrian Safety Month, but in light of the alarming rise in local pedestrian-related car accidents we felt that this subject warranted a deeper look. Southwest Florida is home to mild weather, beautiful beaches, and a world-renowned hospitality industry; all factors that lead to a high level of pedestrian traffic in our area. While the Legal Team at Goldberg Noone Abraham is here for you should you ever be involved in an accident, we sincerely hope that you never find yourself in such a situation. You may not be able to predict if you are going to be involved in an accident, but there are methods by which you can prevent one.
Unfortunately, pedestrians being harmed in traffic accidents is no new phenomenon. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC.gov) 5,977 pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes in the United States in 2017. That breaks down to about one person killed every 88 minutes. Additionally, the CDC found that an estimated 137,000 pedestrians were treated by emergency services for non-fatal crash injuries that same year. Per trip, pedestrians are 1.5 times more likely to be killed in a car crash than a passenger in a vehicle. The likelihood of being involved in such an accident only seems to be increasing, as well; the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) recently published a report stating that over the last 10 years, pedestrian fatalities have increased by over 50%. The report continues to argue that along with the need to identify high-risk areas and allocate more resources to fix problem roadways and traffic devices, States need to work alongside their local law enforcement agencies to “address the chronic driver violations that contribute to pedestrian crashes”. The GHSA report also says the rate of pedestrian fatalities had been on the decline for the past 30 years, but now there has been a “complete reversal of progress.”
Founding Partner Michael Noone has handled many car versus pedestrian crashes in Southwest Florida, and sees the reported increase of pedestrian deaths as a concerning trend. “A person on foot can lose their life by being struck by a car that is travelling at just 15 or 20 miles an hour,” Noone points out. “These types of crashes can also result in severe head or brain injuries because unlike bicyclists, pedestrians aren't wearing any kind of helmet or head protection.” The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) study mentioned above had also found that just 5 states – California, Arizona, Texas, Georgia, and Florida – comprised a shocking 47% of all U.S. traffic fatalities, despite accounting for just 33% of the country's population.
Florida is comedically known for not having the safest drivers, and there may just be some truth to that, as a statistical study of Downtown Fort Myers traffic yielded some troubling results. On January 8th, 2021, our team observed the intersection of Main and Henry Streets (a 4-way intersection in the center of Historic Downtown Fort Myers with heavy foot-traffic) over the course of one hour to find out just how safety-conscious our local drivers were being.
- “Dangerous” Criteria, or what behaviors did our team label as “dangerous”? Drivers were marked as having engaged in dangerous behavior if they were witnessed having engaged in either unlawful or distracted driving practices, such as texting while driving, conducting a “rolling stop”, driving through the intersection without observing the stop sign, conducting a U-turn in the intersection, etc.
- Results: Over the course of this study, we observed 250 motorists use this intersection, and 97 pedestrians use the intersection's crosswalks. Unfortunately, 21.2%, or 53/250, of observed motorists engaged in dangerous behavior that significantly increased their potential of causing a pedestrian-involved accident.
While this data only reflects the activity of one intersection over the course of one hour, it is indicative of a deeper issue. Motorists need to ensure that they are alert, focused, and aware of their surroundings while behind the wheel to prevent a possible injury, or worse. Florida recorded 368 pedestrian deaths in the first 6 months of 2019, 9 more than for the same period in 2018. Most pedestrian fatalities happen at night and away from an intersection, which indicates a greater need for improved road lighting and pedestrian visibility.
The Causes of Crashes Involving a Pedestrian
While there are many factors that could lead to a crash involving a pedestrian, these unfortunately scenarios happen most often when at least one of the parties involved is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Driving under the influence, or crashes involving a pedestrian who was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, are major causes of pedestrian fatalities. Crashes involving an intoxicated driver or pedestrian account for nearly 50% of those that resulted in a pedestrian death reported in 2018.
Other dangerous driving habits such as speeding, distracted driving, and driving while you're tired are also cited as causes for the increase in pedestrian fatalities. An interesting fact is that the number of pedestrians struck by an SUV (as opposed to a standard passenger vehicle) increased by an astounding 81% over the last 10 years; although this may be because that style of vehicle has become much more popular in the United States.
The National Complete Streets Coalition, a traffic safety organization, has also done studies on pedestrian fatalities, and feels that Florida is a prime example of how poor road design contributes to the increasing number of deaths. They claim that street designs now are often wider, with longer blocks which utilize fewer lights and crosswalks. This leads to higher driving speeds, making it more difficult for someone on foot to safely cross the road.
How to Stay Safe and Reduce Your Risk of Being Struck by a Car
There are several things pedestrians can do to reduce their risk of being injured by a collision with a motor vehicle:
- Use sidewalks whenever possible, do not walk on the edge of the roadway,
- Always walk facing oncoming traffic whenever possible,
- If you need to cross and there is no crosswalk, try to find a streetlight where you also have a clear view of oncoming traffic,
- When there is an intersection and you're crossing the street, watch for cars coming from ALL directions, even those making a turn,
- Never try to “make it across” in a hurry – wait until there is an adequate opening in the traffic flow,
- Always try to make eye contact with drivers of oncoming cars – never assume they can see you,
- Try to make yourself as visible as possible, like wearing reflective clothing or carrying a flashlight at night,
- Avoid walking while wearing loud headphones, as they can distract and prevent you from noticing oncoming traffic,
- Keep alert for cars entering the road from a driveway or parking lot,
- Utilize a ride-share app if intoxicated – Walking while impaired can be just as dangerous as driving under the influence, and you may not be able to react as quickly or anticipate an impending crash.
Founding Partner Michael Noone says using common sense can go a long way in preventing serious or even fatal interactions with cars while you're on foot. “The aftermath of a pedestrian being hit by a car can be truly devastating, especially those involving a large SUV type of vehicle,” he says. “Patience is critical in trying to cross a road, and you should slow down and do your best to make sure there are no oncoming cars.”
Goldberg Noone Abraham's legal team knows how to fight for justice on behalf of those who have been seriously injured or lost their life when struck by a car. We have been helping crash victims for more than 20 years through aggressive legal representation, expert knowledge, and unrelenting determination. Personal injury law is not a part of what we do – it is ALL we do. If you have questions about your case, give us a call! It will never cost you to speak with us, and our fees are derived on a contingency basis from your successful settlement or jury verdict; meaning you will not pay anything out of pocket when you hire us until we're successful on your behalf. Call us at 239-461-5508 to get in touch. We are happy to provide the answers you'll need following the stress of an injury caused by someone else's negligence or carelessness.