“Look both ways before you cross the street” is one of the earliest messages we hear as children. It’s a lesson that bears repeating as pedestrian accidents reach an all-time high in Michigan and across the country.
In fact, pedestrian deaths rose 21% across the U.S. In 2020 -- the largest annual increase ever recorded, according to data from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA)(*1). These numbers are even more disturbing in light of the significant reduction in traffic during 2020, as a result of the pandemic.
In Michigan, 178 pedestrians were killed in 2020, compared to 149 in 2019. Because calculations are based on the number of pedestrian deaths per billion vehicle miles traveled (VMT), this represents an increase of 19% pedestrian-related deaths.
Furthermore, this perilous surge shows no signs of abating, according to preliminary accident statistics for the early part of 2021. A recent report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)(*2) estimates a 10.5% increase in overall traffic fatalities during the first three months of this year, despite fewer vehicles on the road.
October is National Pedestrian Safety Month
Because October is one of the deadliest months of the year for pedestrians, it was designated National Pedestrian Safety Month by the U.S. Department of Transportation and the GHSA (*4). Since 2015, more Michigan pedestrians have been killed or seriously injured by motor vehicles in October than in any other month.
One reason is that earlier sunsets make it harder for drivers to see pedestrians walking on roads or crossing streets. In addition, many fall activities take place in the weeks leading up to Halloween, including football games and other events where participants are likely to consume alcohol before walking or driving home or to the next destination.
Why has walking become so dangerous?
During the decade spanning 2009 to 2019, pedestrian fatalities rose 53%, according to NHTSA data (*5). This deadly trend has been attributed to a variety of factors, including the growing popularity of SUVs. A pedestrian is more likely to be killed or severely injured by one of these vehicles, due to their size, weight and high front-end profile.
Another reason for the surge in pedestrian deaths is the growing number of drivers distracted by cellphones, GPS systems and other activities that take attention away from the road. Since 2016, the number of fatal crashes involving cellphones rose 87.5%, while non-fatal cellphone-related accidents rose 48%. Moreover, the danger is compounded by distracted pedestrians looking down at their phones or listening intently to headphones while crossing the street.
However, the above factors do not account for the major increase in fatal pedestrian accidents during a year when traffic was lighter than normal. Rather, these deaths represent one of many tragic and unexpected consequences of the pandemic. Reports from law enforcement and traffic safety experts showed more drivers engaging in risky and reckless behaviors, such as road rage, excessive speeding and driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol during 2020 than in previous years.
Who is responsible for a pedestrian car accident? Find out here.
Road safety tips for pedestrians and drivers
Below is a compilation of tips from the NHTSA (*5) to help pedestrians and drivers stay safe during October and throughout the year.
Tips for pedestrians
- Obey traffic signs and signals.
- Use sidewalks whenever possible.
- When there is no sidewalk, walk on the side of the road facing oncoming traffic.
- Avoid distractions such as cellphones or headphones when walking on a road or crossing the street.
- Use crosswalks or cross at intersections when possible.
- If you have to cross in the middle of a road, look in both directions and wait until there is enough space between cars to cross safely.
- Never cross against a light or signal, even if traffic is clear.
- Never assume a driver sees you; make eye contact when possible or let the car go first.
- When walking at night, wear reflective accessories and carry a flashlight.
- Watch for cars entering or backing down driveways.
- Learn the local rules for crosswalks, and tread carefully, even if you have the legal right of way.
To learn more about Michigan crosswalk laws, click here.
Tips for drivers
- Make it a habit to watch for pedestrians at all times.
- Use extra caution whenever visibility is low, including at night and when driving through fog, rain or other hazardous conditions.
- Allow additional stopping time when roads are wet or icy.
- Slow down and be prepared to stop when approaching a crosswalk.
- When making a right turn, watch for pedestrians crossing the street onto which you are turning.
- Obey the rules of the road, including speed limits and traffic signs and signals.
- Never drive under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.
- When driving in school zones, follow the slower speed limits specified for certain hours.
- Drive 25 mph or less in neighborhoods with children and pets.
- When backing up in parking lots or driveways, make sure no one is walking behind your car.
Put experience car accident lawyers to work for you today
Even the most careful drivers -- and pedestrians -- can be involved in an accident. If you or a loved one is injured in an accident, the Sam Bernstein Law Firm can help. The firm’s knowledgeable attorneys know what it takes to win, and have the expertise and resources to make sure their clients and families receive the compensation they deserve.
Auto accident law is complicated, but finding the right car accident lawyer is simple.
Don’t let the legal clock run out. To get your case started today, visit the Sam Bernstein website at www.callsam.com, or call 800-2255-726 for a free, no-obligation remote consultation from the safety and comfort of your home.