It is the time of year when we all need a reminder in the form of a distracted pedestrian alert. The weather has warmed, school will soon be out for the summer, the pools will be open in a matter of days. People will be out and about more often than they have been during the winter. Excited children will be focused on their destination and not on traffic around them. Distracted pedestrians are a concern for everyone.
We seem to have raised some awareness of the dangers of distracted driving in recent years. Yet the auto accidents continue and people are still being hurt or killed. We all should know that eating, texting, and other activities while driving are a leading cause of auto accidents, truck accidents, and bicyclist accidents. As we continue to sound the alarm about distracted drivers, we also need to sound an alarm about distracted pedestrians.
Most pedestrian involved accidents occur in cities, towns and other more populated communities. Logic tells us that if vehicles are traveling at lower speeds they are not as likely to cause as much harm to a pedestrian. But this is not always true. Yet there can be no denial of the fact that when a pedestrian steps directly in front of your car, you simply cannot stop in time to avoid an accident.
The number of distracted driving pedestrian related accidents seems to be declining in recent years. More and more drivers are heeding the warnings. Yet distracted pedestrians walking in our communities do not appear to be declining in number.
The chart below indicates the number of Virginia pedestrian involved accidents, the number of injuries sustained, and the number of fatalities resulting from these accidents.
During the last six years the number of pedestrian involved accidents has declined, as did the number of injuries sustained. Yet after a significant decline in the number of fatalities in 2012 -2015, the number of fatalities reached at least a six year high in 2016 and 2017. A larger proportion of pedestrian involved accidents are resulting in fatalities.
This chart does not indicate the determined cause of these accidents – drivers, pedestrians – but the trajectory demonstrated should attract our attention. We know that some of these pedestrian accidents involve excited children who are unable to self-regulate their enthusiasm. Children have been darting out in front of moving vehicles for decades. Every parent knows the importance of teaching their children to cross only at corners, to cross only with the traffic light, and to look both ways before stepping into an intersection. The fact that children are easily distracted, is a strong reminder to all drivers to remain particularly alert for children running into a street.
Many of Virginia’s pedestrian involved accidents, however, involve teens and adults. Many of these accidents occur because a pedestrian was not paying attention to his or her surroundings or was absorbed in engaging in some other activity while walking and crossing streets. Among the more common distracting activities are talking or texting while walking, eating while walking, or listening to music through headphones that block out much of the street sounds that would otherwise warn a pedestrian of approaching danger.
As we all shake off winter doldrums and emerge into the brightness of spring and summer, it is a good time to examine our own behavior when walking in public places. Do you find yourself doing something that distracts you from full awareness of what is happening around you? What about your children? Have you impressed upon them the importance of paying attention when walking on public streets? Do you remind them to look both ways before crossing a street and to cross only at a corner?
This distracted pedestrian alert is offered in the hope that it might prevent at least one pedestrian involved accident this year. If we can all pay attention to what we are doing and where we are, we can reduce the alarming number of pedestrian involved accidents, and especially the number of injuries and fatalities.
Assessing liability in a pedestrian involved accident is a complex and often confusing matter. If you have been involved in an accident, it is important to discuss the event with a qualified and experienced personal injury attorney who can help you understand those complexities. Bettina Altizer and her team have been defending and protecting clients for more than 25 years. The entire team of Altizer Law, P.C., is prepared to help you if you or a loved one has been injured in a pedestrian involved accident.