The Vulnerability of Pedestrians
Pedestrians are among the most vulnerable travelers on roads across America and in the state of Virginia. Unlike those who are in an automobile, pedestrians have neither a steel cage around their body nor safety restraints to protect them from injury. The simple laws of physics dictate that when a pedestrian is struck by an automobile there will considerable injury to the pedestrian. Flesh and blood is simply no match for the sheer weight and the amount of steel of an automobile. Additionally, pedestrians are often made up of the most vulnerable groups—children, the elderly and the handicapped—meaning the consequences of a pedestrian-auto accident is likely to be significant.
Duty to Protect Others from Harm
One of the basic legal tenets in proving legal negligence involves the duty to protect another person from harm. When we examine this particular legal precept, you can almost always apply it in cases where a pedestrian was harmed by a driver in an automobile. Envision a scenario where a pedestrian is walking along a sidewalk, minding his or her own business, when suddenly a driver becomes distracted for one reason or another, edging off the road, striking the pedestrian.
Obviously, all drivers have the legal duty to keep their vehicle on the road and out of areas which are not designated for vehicles and are specifically used for pedestrians (or bicyclists). If the pedestrian who was struck had been walking on the roadway outside a designated crosswalk, the legal issue of duty to protect others from harm would likely become much more complex.
Failure in Duty to Protect
Unfortunately, many drivers today are impaired, sleepy, inattentive or distracted, any of which can result in a failure to watch for pedestrians. Some drivers may even deliberately disobey traffic laws which are specifically designed to ensure the safety of pedestrians, such as speeding through a school zone.
Excessive speed can also be a factor in auto-pedestrian accidents—a driver going over the posted speed may be unable to stop in time to avoid injuring a pedestrian. Whatever the reason, when any of these bad driving habits occur, causing the injury of a pedestrian, the driver has failed in his or her duty to protect pedestrians.
Did the Failure in Duty to Protect Cause Injuries?
In order to prove negligence, the failure to protect the pedestrian must have resulted in injury to the pedestrian. In virtually all cases of auto vs. pedestrian, there will be injuries to the pedestrian. According to the NHTSA, 4,735 pedestrians were killed in 2013 after being struck by a motor vehicle. Young children between the ages of 5 and 9, adults over the age of 70, and pedestrians who are walking while impaired by alcohol are the groups most often injured in an auto-pedestrian accident. When a 3000-pound automobile collides with a human being, injuries can include broken legs, arms and ribs, internal organ damage, spinal cord damage, and traumatic brain injury.
Factors in Pedestrian-Car Accidents
Generally, there are two primary causes of car-pedestrian collisions—driver error or pedestrian error. Pedestrians may sometimes disregard traffic lights, jaywalk, or small children may suddenly dart into traffic, endangering themselves as well as the parent who pursues them. Drivers may also disregard traffic signals or traffic laws or may simply not be paying attention to the pedestrians around them. Almost 73 percent of pedestrian accidents happen after dark, suggesting the inability to see these pedestrians could be a significant factor in car-pedestrian accidents.
About 9 percent of children between the ages of 10 and 14 were injured pedestrians—the highest among the age categories. The speed of the car is a major factor in whether or not the pedestrian will survive the accident—the faster the car is traveling, the less likely it will be able to avoid hitting a pedestrian and the more likely the accident will be fatal to the pedestrian.
Specific Driver Error Factors in Pedestrian-Car Accidents
Automobile drivers often will disregard crosswalks at intersections, creating a significant risk for a serious pedestrian accident. Drivers must always take appropriate measures to ensure pedestrians are not crossing the road before entering a designated crosswalk. Other times auto drivers will ignore traffic controls, particularly those which specifically relate to pedestrians, or will fail to yield to a pedestrian who has already entered the driver’s lane as they start to cross the road.
Unfortunately, impaired driving has left many pedestrians dead or seriously injured as the drunk driver drives onto a sidewalk and hits an unwitting pedestrian. There are even drivers who blatantly ignore the red, flashing lights of a school bus and pass, creating a high risk of injury to children who are getting off the bus.
Pedestrian Accidents in Virginia
According to a 2017 WTOP report, while there was an 11 percent increase in pedestrian fatalities in 2016, Maryland and Washington D.C. saw a decrease in pedestrian fatalities. Virginia showed an increase of 35 percent in the first half of 2016, as compared to the first half of 2015. This particular report cited an improved economy which resulted in more people driving and walking as the cause of the increased number of pedestrian fatalities. The report also listed distracted driving and distracted walking as factors, then noted that about 72 percent of the pedestrian/auto collisions occurred in travel lanes of a road or highway, 18 percent occurred in intersections, and 10 percent occurred on the road shoulder or a driveway.
Avoiding Pedestrian Accidents and Getting Help When You Have Been Injured in a Pedestrian Accident
The best way to avoid pedestrian is to always drive defensively and to pay particular attention to young children and older adults who could be less aware of the drivers around them. If you’ve been the victim of a pedestrian-car accident, you likely have serious, even life-threatening injuries which can takes months or even years to completely heal. It is important that you contact a Virginia personal injury attorney from Tronfeld, West & Durrett who has experience dealing with pedestrian accidents. You need an advocate in your corner, and we will be that advocate, allowing you to heal while we focus on obtaining compensation on your behalf. Contact us at (804) 358-6741 today.