As a general rule, pedestrians have the right of way. That means if you see someone walking, you have the obligation to stop your vehicle and wait for them to pass. Of course, there are times when you can’t stop in time or when pedestrians make stupid choices, which can end in disaster.
Knowing who is at fault is key to deciphering who has to cover the cost of injuries and damages. In Los Angeles, pedestrian injuries remain among the highest in the nation, and the fatalities are the highest all around. Why is it so dangerous to walk around the city? Perhaps it is a culture of walkers or drivers not following the rules; whatever it is, each year thousands of people are injured — and some killed — by drivers when the victims are out walking.
The number of pedestrian fatalities has steadily increased over the past decade, with the greatest increase being from 2015-2016. In 2016, statistics show that as many as 359 people died while walking. That is a staggering and unacceptable number.
According to a statement made by the Governors’ Highway Safety Association, close to 6,000 pedestrians were killed nationwide just in 2016. That showed an 11% increase from just one year before. This is the largest percentage jump in the 40 years since data started to be collected, and it leaves many wondering what is going on to produce so many accidents.
One reason may be the time of day that most of the pedestrian accidents occur. Almost 50% of them happen between the hours of 6 pm to midnight; with 74% of them happening after dark, this might say a lot about the suspicion of behaviors that could be contributing to the accidents.
In 15% of the cases reported, 34% of the pedestrians who were injured had a blood alcohol concentration (or BAC) that was well above the legal limit of 0.08%, making them impaired. Seventy-two percent of the accidents occurred on roadways which were not intersections, including pedestrians who were walking in the middle of the road or even the highway. Only 18% happened in intersections; the other cases happened in non-traveled lanes, drives, and shoulder areas. A good portion of Los Angeles pedestrian accidents occurred in urban areas, not rural.
California’s pedestrian fatality issue is the highest in the nation, followed by Texas. One of the contributory factors is people looking at or being distracted by their cell phones or mobile devices and not paying attention to their walking or their driving. That means that some people are being hit simply because no one is paying attention to what they are supposed to be doing. Other reasons people get hit can be because they are in a hurry and aren’t interested in waiting for a green light to turn red. Taking their chances, they think they can outrun a car when logic tells them they can’t. Also, apparently pedestrians in California think that walking signs are optional, paying attention to the signal only when it suits their time constraints.
What can be done to curb pedestrian deaths and injuries
Although a lot of public health programs have centered around not texting while driving, little attention is being paid to paying attention while you are walking and watching for traffic signs. There are also “jaywalking laws,” which are rarely enforced. But perhaps if law enforcement was a little more stringent about catching those who don’t obey the pedestrian signs and choose to walk out into traffic, lives could be saved. Increasing walking zones and visible traffic signals might also help to sway the public to obey the traffic signs and not put their life in jeopardy over a 30-second wait.
The rash of pedestrian deaths and automobile accidents involving pedestrians is likely a sign of the times. Always being in a hurry to get somewhere, while multitasking both in the car and when walking, is a recipe for disaster when you are going from point A to point B. With some more public awareness, some stricter enforcement of the laws, and a real push to make people follow the rules of the road for both driving and walking purposes, maybe this year California and other states in the union can witness a decline in pedestrian deaths instead of an increase.