The percentages of fatalities and injuries involving those riding in vehicles are relatively unchanged in the last decade, but the same cannot be said for pedestrians. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, pedestrian fatalities are up 50% between 2009 and 2019 (the most recent year of complete data). The total number of pedestrian fatalities in 2019 was 6,590 in the U.S., a 5% increase from 2018, and the highest number in three decades. Houston reported 158 pedestrian fatalities in 2019.
Why is this happening?
Safety experts are increasingly alarmed by this trend, but they are not surprised. Reasons for the rise include:
- Devices: The number of distracted drivers using their devices while operating a vehicle has soared.
- Vehicle Size: Sales of SUVs and other large vehicles has increased in recent years. Larger vehicles mean less maneuverability and a higher likelihood of severe or fatal injuries.
- Intoxication: While driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is an ongoing problem, the number of intoxicated pedestrians (possibly walking home from the bars) has increased.
- Road design: Until recently, municipalities and engineers emphasized traffic flow over pedestrian safety.
Nights are particularly dangerous
Seventy-five percent of all pedestrian fatalities now occur at night. While the above factors contribute to this trend, the study also suggests improving road design by installing high-visibility pedestrian crossings in the middle of blocks, pedestrian islands on wider roads, better roadway lighting, and safer walkways next to roads, could lead to a significant decrease in the number of pedestrian fatalities.
There are some new campaigns designed to raise awareness of the issue here in Houston, but these efforts returned mixed results. Experts say an increase in enforcement of speeds and more DUI/DWI checkpoints could help as well.
Legal action may be necessary
Just as an 18-wheeler truck that collides with a smaller vehicle or truck can kill the driver and/or passengers in the smaller vehicle without so much as a scratch to the truck driver, pedestrians hit by a motor vehicle are often severely injured or killed without causing any significant damage or injuries to the vehicle or driver.
Victims and their families often can take solace in holding negligent drivers and municipalities responsible for these senseless deaths and injuries. Those with questions about an incident’s circumstances often find it helpful to speak with a law firm that specializes in personal injury and wrongful death cases involving motor vehicles. These knowledgeable professionals can often help victims get the compensation they deserve.