What Risk Factors Increase the Chances of a Pedestrian Accident?

When it comes to traffic accidents, many individuals think that semi-truck accidents and head-on collisions are among the deadliest. While this is true, pedestrian accidents account for 1 out of 6 deaths in all traffic-related fatalities in the State of Texas. Unfortunately, the number of deaths is only increasing.

In 2021, there were 815 pedestrian deaths due to accidents. In 2022, this number rose to 830 deaths, and the preliminary numbers for 2023 are showing an alarming upward trend of pedestrian-related deaths. 

Due to serious concern over the rise of pedestrian accidents and deaths, TxDOT has been working tirelessly to enhance pedestrian safety by creating safer crosswalks and road systems, educating the public about the rise in fatalities, and improving efforts to increase motorists’ awareness of pedestrians.

In commitment to the service of our community, the pedestrian accident attorneys at Branch & Dhillon, P.C., have extensively researched the risk factors that increase the chances of a pedestrian accident. We have compiled this article to share our findings, spread awareness, and do our part in making the roads safer for pedestrians and motorists in our community.

Factors That Increase the Risk of a Pedestrian Accident

Several factors significantly increase the risk of a pedestrian accident and impact its severity. These factors include the use of larger vehicles, the driver’s age and gender, and drinking and recreational drug use. Our attorneys have looked closely at these factors; here is what we have found.

The Increased Use of Larger Vehicles

New SUVs in a parking lot.

Texas roadways have no shortage of vehicles, but counting the number of small cars vs. large ones (such as trucks and SUVs), it is apparent that larger cars are taking dominance. The Urban Institute conducted a study in 2020 that showed that the rise in SUV and truck purchases has positively correlated with increased pedestrian accidents. Their analysis showed a jump in sales of larger vehicles from 47% in 2009 to 74% in 2020 across the United States. 

During this period, there was a visible rise in pedestrian accidents across the United States. In 2009, there were a total of 4,000 pedestrian fatalities due to accidents, and that number increased to 6,800 in 2020. 

Why Does a Larger Vehicle Pose a Greater Threat to Pedestrians?

Many individuals seek out newer SUVs and trucks for their safety features, such as lane assistance and the protection of their larger frames. While these safety features may help drivers stay safe by alerting them of potential dangers, they also make drivers dependent on them.

The massive size of SUVs and trucks makes them extremely dangerous for pedestrians. While their safety features are designed to detect other vehicles, they are not effective at detecting pedestrians. When an SUV or other large vehicle hits a pedestrian, the contact point is much higher than a smaller vehicle like a sedan. This makes the impact harder on more vulnerable body parts, such as the internal organs. The higher contact point also increases the risk of the pedestrian being thrown on impact, leading to severe wounds, head trauma, and spinal cord injuries.

All drivers need to use their senses and not rely on their vehicles’ sensors before taking turns, backing up, or going through intersections. While safety features may be able to detect large vehicles, they aren’t effective at detecting pedestrians and cyclists. Understanding the danger that larger vehicles present to pedestrians can help drivers make better decisions and stay alert when on the road.

Texas’s Warmer Climate

A gavel on a legal book and a desk.

Texas is renowned for its warmer and sunny climate. The nice weather encourages individuals to walk or cycle to their destinations, especially if that destination is fairly close. With more people walking on the road and the increase in vehicles, disaster is just around the corner. Drivers making poor decisions (such as driving under the influence or engaging in road rage) endanger themselves, pedestrians, cyclists, and other motorists.

A data analysis research firm, Westat, recently studied warm climates and pedestrian deaths. They found that California, Florida, and Texas accounted for 30% of all the pedestrian deaths in the country. This is alarming, especially since these states only account for 28% of the U.S. population.

Most of the deaths in these states occurred during the favorable weather months of spring and summer. Warmer temperatures, as mentioned earlier, encouraged more individuals to walk instead of driving to their destinations.

How Can We Learn From This Factor?

It is crucial to remember that our area may see an increase in pedestrian traffic during the spring and summer months. Knowing this, motorists should drive more carefully, be aware of their surroundings, and always give the right of way to pedestrians and cyclists. This will help keep our community safer and reduce the risk of accidents.

Lower-Income Communities

Unfortunately, lower-income neighborhoods have a significantly higher risk of pedestrian accidents than middle-class and upper-class neighborhoods due to the increased population of pedestrians. A study conducted by the Journal of Transport and Land Use between 2001 and 2016 reported that 97% of “hot-spot” pedestrian accident sites had the following characteristics:

  • Multi-lane roads requiring pedestrians to cross multiple lanes of traffic
  • Speed limits of 30mph or higher in nearly one-third of these neighborhoods
  • Traffic volumes exceeding 25,000 cars and motorcycles per day in 62% of low-income neighborhoods
  • Commercial retail or service land uses surrounding lower-income communities
  • Lower visibility due to billboards in 72% of these neighborhoods

Urban Areas With Poor Walkability

A lady and her dog are crossing a crosswalk on a dangerous street.

When planning urban areas, city officials and roadway construction contractors use a term called “walkability.” Walkability measures how pedestrian-friendly an area is. Unfortunately, Texas’s cities and urban spaces rank extremely poorly in walkability.

Walk Score, an online company that investigates and ranks the walkability of cities across the United States, has listed several factors that make an urban area walkable. These factors are as follows:

  • Having a city center
  • Parks
  • Public spaces
  • The proximity between residences, schools, and workplaces
  • Streets that are designed to handle pedestrians, cyclists, and public transportation, such as buses

For reference, in the United States, the top cities for pedestrians are San Francisco, with a score of 89; New York City, with a score of 88; and Boston, with a score of 83. In comparison, Dallas has a walk score of 46, while Arlington has a walk score of 38.

High Speeds of Traffic

Another issue is high-capacity roads that run alongside sidewalks. Most pedestrian deaths occur in heavy-traffic areas where the posted speed limit is between 45 and 55 miles per hour. 

Many urban roads in Texas have a design conflict, and roadways are often built to prioritize vehicles over pedestrians. Most pedestrian accidents occur in areas where multi-lane roads run adjacent to commercial retail spaces.

Age of the Pedestrian

Age also seems to be a factor in an individual’s risk of being hit by a vehicle. The two highest at-risk groups are children ages 14 and under and adults 65 years or older. 

Children Ages 14 and Under:

Children face the highest risk of being struck by a moving vehicle, especially if the following factors are also involved:

  • The child is unfamiliar with their surroundings
  • There is a lack of understanding about road and vehicle safety
  • The child is inattentive to their surroundings
  • The child is distracted by a phone or another person
  • The child makes unpredictable movements, such as suddenly darting out into the road
  • The child doesn’t know how to safely cross the road near their school or bus stop 
  • The child is short, which makes them less visible to larger vehicles

Adults 65 Years or Older:

Twenty percent of all pedestrian fatalities are adults who are aged 65 or older. They do not move as fast as younger adults, have a slower response time, and are often affected by medical conditions that leave them confused, such as Alzheimer’s. The highest at-risk age for adults is males who are 80 years or older.

Pedestrians Impaired by Drugs or Alcohol

Another factor that increases a pedestrian’s risk of getting struck by a vehicle is walking while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Drugs and alcohol significantly impact an individual’s ability to make sound judgments, and they decrease an individual’s response time. Nearly half of all fatal pedestrian accidents involved alcohol or drugs on the part of the driver or pedestrian. 

What Actions Can Be Taken To Decrease the Risk of a Pedestrian Accident?

A pedestrian is crossing the street and a driver is approaching them.

Fortunately, pedestrians and drivers can both take steps to reduce the risk of an accident and make the roads safer. Here is what you can do to help.

Safety Guidelines for Pedestrians

  • Follow all laws and regulations for the road, including obeying signs and traffic signals
  • Walk on sidewalks whenever possible
  • If there is no sidewalk, walk facing traffic and as far from traffic as possible
  • Cross the street at crosswalks or intersections
  • Make sure to look both ways before crossing
  • Cross only in well-lit areas where the view of traffic is unimpeded
  • Always watch for cars entering and exiting driveways or backing up in parking lots
  • Do not drink alcohol or take drugs while walking or if you plan to walk somewhere

Safety Guidelines for Drivers

  • Always watch for pedestrians
  • Use caution when driving in hard-to-see conditions, such as at night or in inclement weather
  • Slow down and prepare to stop when approaching a crosswalk
  • Always yield to pedestrians
  • When stopping at a crosswalk, make sure to stop far enough back to give other vehicles a chance to stop as well
  • Never pass a vehicle stopped at a crosswalk, even if you don’t see any pedestrians
  • Do not drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Always pay attention to the road and put away all distractions
  • Follow the posted speed limit, especially in high-traffic areas such as school zones and neighborhoods
  • Always check for pedestrians when backing up

Have You Been Involved in a Pedestrian Accident?

If you or a loved one was involved in a pedestrian accident, you want a knowledgeable pedestrian accident attorney on your side. The insurance companies will try to protect their client and shift partial or full blame on you. Our attorneys at Branch & Dhillon, P.C., fight tirelessly to ensure that the defendant or their insurance company cannot bully you. 

We are advocates for the people of Arlington, Texas, when seeking compensation to cover medical bills and damages after an accident. Our attorneys work to gather the evidence needed to show the responsible party’s negligence. If you are looking for someone to aid you through the legal process, we are more than ready to help. Contact Branch & Dhillon, P.C., today for more information on our pedestrian accident services or to schedule a free no-obligation consultation. 

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