Recently the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released a report (http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811625.pdf) indicating that pedestrian-car collisions causing deaths had risen just over 4% from 2009 to 2010. The report did not address many of the reasons for this edge up in pedestrian deaths. They pinned a number of them (about 1/3) on increased alcohol usage by drivers. But that doesn’t account for the entire reason. They did not mention that texting and driving likely accounted for as many deaths as alcohol. That is interesting because according to the Transportation Secretary, texting and driving is the big issue of the day.
Further, it did not entertain that given the sustained high cost of gasoline, and the terrible economic conditions and job market here in the US, more people are walking places than in our recent past. Walking advocates have been saying for some time that “walkable” communities are on the rise. Also many Americans have joined the health-conscious movement that touts walking as an easy way to get your daily dose of outside exercise. In fact, there is evidence that 2/3 of Americans now walk for fun and exercise on a regular basis.
One interesting note on alcohol: It appears that drunk walking is more dangerous than drunk driving! But doesn’t that beg the question, how many roadways are safe for walking in general? Modern suburban neighborhoods typically have sidewalks. But many of our urban centers, where most pedestrian/car accidents happen, are not truly “walkable.” Municipalities are not investing in creating walkable cities where their infrastructure is already set.
In 2011, a transportation advocacy group called Transportation for America created a report (http://t4america.org/resources/dangerousbydesign2011/) indicating that pedestrian safety is actually neglected. The report says that it is the fast-moving arteries to highways that have little to no room for pedestrians, and they cause a majority of pedestrian deaths. The desire and concern is only for large volume vehicle traffic on fast high-capacity connecting roads between major destinations. The intent is to attract business vendors to the city and rely on past consumer behavior that relies on cars to get around. There is little to no investment in pedestrians, bicycle traffic, safe walkways, mid-road crosswalks or other safety devices to make a city more walkable. What is most disturbing behind the data is that it does not support the notion that drivers or designers are at fault. The drivers and pedestrians blame each other for why the accident happened, and no one really looks to the roadway as a problem.
As attorneys who handle a large volume of pedestrian and bicycle cases, we see the many ways insurance companies will manipulate the facts and data to place blame on a pedestrian/biker. In fact, I remember a specific case of a 30-year-old teacher riding his bicycle that was hit by an elderly driver. The man was thrown 25 feet into the air and landed on his head and shoulder. He subsequently had 3 shoulder operations and neck surgery. The insurance company said he was partly at fault because he was riding slower than the 45 mile per hour posted speed limit! No matter the facts, the other party is going to point the finger at you! Be careful when you are out exercising or getting to work. If you have any questions we are here to help.