Why have pedestrian deaths increased?
Pedestrians who are struck by motor vehicles are much more likely to suffer serious injuries or to be killed than are the occupants of cars. Pedestrians do not have anything protecting them from the physical forces that are involved in collisions, and they instead absorb the forces entirely with their bodies. Arizona has the dubious distinction of having the highest rate of pedestrian fatalities in the nation. The Governor’s Highway Safety Association reported that 224 pedestrians were killed in 2017 in the state. This was a pedestrian fatality rate of 1.61 per 100,000 people, which was nearly twice as much as the national average of 0.81 per 100,000 people.
Pedestrian deaths in accidents have increased nationwide, including in Arizona. NPR reports that pedestrian fatalities in the U.S. increased by 11 percent in 2017, claiming the lives of nearly 6,000 people. That increase was the highest single-year increase that has ever occurred. At the same time that pedestrian deaths have increased, motor vehicles have become safer. While this might seem incongruous, there are several reasons why experts believe that pedestrian deaths have increased even though modern vehicles have many safety features that provide alerts to drivers.
Experts state that improvements in the economy have led to more vehicles on the roadways. While this may account for part of the overall increase in traffic accidents, it does not fully explain why pedestrian deaths have increased so significantly. Both drivers and pedestrians may be distracted by their electronic devices. When drivers do not have their attention focused on the roads, they may strike pedestrians that they fail to see. Pedestrians who are looking at their phones while they are walking may step out in front of oncoming vehicles without noticing them. Speed limits in urban areas that are too high may also result in more pedestrian fatalities. The Arizona Department of Transportation reports that 80 percent of pedestrians that are struck at speeds of 40 mph or more die. When the speed limit is decreased to 30 mph, the percentage of pedestrians who die is 40 percent.
Another major issue that leads to many pedestrian injuries and deaths is alcohol consumption by both drivers and pedestrians. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 48 percent of the fatal pedestrian accidents that happened in 2015 involved alcohol. Of those accidents, 15 percent involved drivers that had blood alcohol concentrations of 0.08 mg/dl or higher. In 34 percent of the accidents, the pedestrians who were killed had blood alcohol concentrations of 0.08 mg/dl or higher.
The special problem of hit and run accidents
Hit and run accidents are a special problem for pedestrians. Since 2006, AAA reports that an average of 682,000 hit-and-runs have happened every year. Among those accidents, 65 percent of people who were killed were pedestrians or bicyclists. One-fifth of pedestrian fatalities that have happened in the past 10 years were caused in hit-and-run accidents.
Hit-and-run accidents can be especially problematic for the victims and their families because of having trouble finding the drivers so that they can seek justice and also, so they might recover compensation for their losses. If the pedestrians have a type of insurance called uninsured motorists or underinsured motorists coverage (UM/UIM), they may be able to file a claim with their own insurance companies to recover compensation for their losses. However, if the pedestrians do not have UM/UIM coverage and are struck by drivers who flee the accident scenes, they may be left with mounting medical bills and other losses while not having a source of recovery.
Pedestrians who are injured by drivers who try to leave the scene of an accident should call the police to document the hit-and-run or attempted hit and run. They also should try to take pictures of the vehicle and its license plate. They might also try to talk to others who witnessed the accident and ask them for their contact information. With the license plate number, make and car model, an attorney at Lamber Goodnow may be able to track down the vehicle’s owner in order to try to obtain a more just outcome and, also recover compensation for the injured victim.
Important pedestrian laws in Arizona
Under A.R.S. § 28-792, motorists are supposed to slow down and to yield the right of way to pedestrians who are crossing the roads in crosswalks or at unmarked intersections. The motorists are supposed to stop to allow the pedestrians to safely cross when the pedestrians are in the section of the crosswalks on the drivers’ side of the roads or if the pedestrians are very near to their section. Other vehicles that see motorists who are stopped to allow pedestrians to cross are not supposed to pass the motorists who are stopped.
Another important law is found in A.R.S. § 28-857, which mandates that drivers must stop when they are approaching school buses that have their stop signs out and alternating flashing lights on. The drivers are not supposed to resume driving until the buses have retracted their signs and turned off their flashing lights. This is important because children who are getting off of the buses or who are running to catch them may be hit by motorists.
Under A.R.S. § 28-794, motorists are supposed to always exercise due caution to avoid colliding with any pedestrian who may be present in the roadway. Drivers might exercise due care by keeping watch for pedestrians who might be on the sides of the roads so that they can react appropriately if the pedestrians begin crossing. Drivers may especially want to watch for children who are near to the roadways or people who appear to be incapacitated.
If people are walking in areas in which there are sidewalks, they are prohibited from walking in the roadways instead of on the sidewalks under A.R.S. § 28-796. However, if there are no sidewalks, the pedestrians are allowed to walk along the edge of the roadways on the left-hand side of the road facing traffic. If pedestrians are walking in the roadways in areas without sidewalks, motorists have a duty to watch out for them and to avoid hitting them with their vehicles. Accidents involving pedestrians are also likelier to occur at night when they are more difficult to see and in urban areas.
Pedestrian rights following an accident
Pedestrians have several rights if they have been hit by a vehicle. When they cross in a crosswalk when signaled, pedestrians have the right-of-way. This means that motorists are supposed to stop and allow them to cross safely. After accidents that were caused by the negligence of the motorists, the pedestrians may have the right to file civil lawsuits against the negligent motorists. Filing civil lawsuits may help the injured pedestrians to recover damages to compensate them for all of their losses.
There are several things that you should do after you have been struck by a car. You should call 911 and remain at the scene of the accident. If your medical condition permits, try to take photographs of the scene of the accident, the area where you crossed and the vehicle that hit you. Take pictures of the damage to the vehicle as well as its license plate, and try to get the motorist’s information, including his or her name, address and insurance information. Call the police and request that they come to the accident scene. When the police arrive, tell them what happened. Some drivers will attempt to place blame on the pedestrians even if they were not at fault. Never apologize or accept responsibility for an accident that you did not cause. Be mindful that some serious injuries may not initially cause or manifest symptoms until several hours or days have passed. Getting a prompt medical evaluation can help to diagnose any injuries that you might have suffered so that they can be treated timely and more effectively. Getting prompt treatment from a doctor can also help you to prove that your injuries were caused by the accident and not from some other intervening cause.
After you have received medical treatment, you will likely be contacted by an adjuster from the motorist’s insurance company. The adjuster may ask you to sign a medical authorization and to make a recorded statement. You should not agree to sign a medical authorization or to make a recorded statement without talking to a personal injury lawyer at Lamber Goodnow or otherwise. Insurance companies use medical authorizations as a way to search through the medical histories of people who have been injured in an effort to place blame for their injuries on other incidents that have previously happened or on purported pre-existing conditions. They use recorded statements to try to trick people into saying things that can harm their claims. The companies may then use them later to dispute the claims when they are filed.
If you are injured and are subsequently contacted by an insurance company representative of the at-fault motorist, you can politely refuse to answer questions or to sign anything. You can simply tell the representative that you want to consult with a personal injury lawyer before you will be willing to make any statements. The injury lawyers at Lamber Goodnow can then handle the negotiations for you in a manner that best protects and preserves your recovery rights.
Tips for drivers to prevent accidents with pedestrians
The vast majority of drivers never want to cause accidents with pedestrians, and there are some things that you can do to prevent having these types of collisions. Make certain that you adhere to the speed limits when you drive, and never use your cell phone while you are driving. You should also avoid engaging in other distracting activities while you are driving such as turning dials or messing with your vehicle’s infotainment system. If you need to look at your GPS, pull over and stop to do so.
While you are driving, always keep aware of any people you might see who are walking near the road. By watching for people, you may be prepared to act if they suddenly start crossing the street. Make certain to slow or come to a complete stop if a pedestrian begins crossing even in areas in which pedestrians are not supposed to cross such as at a midblock. If you are approaching a crosswalk in which a pedestrian is crossing, stop if the pedestrian is on your side of the road or is about to step into that portion of the crosswalk. Always stop when signaled to do so by school buses, and never speed in school zones. You should also never drink and drive.
Pedestrian accidents can devastate the lives of the victims and their families. If you have suffered an injury after you were hit by a car or have lost a loved one, it is important for you to get help from the experienced attorneys, such as those at Lamber Goodnow. We have helped many people throughout Arizona who have been the victims of negligent motorists, and we understand how to gather the evidence to get answers and to as appropriate, support claims. By using a combination of our legal knowledge and litigation and negotiation skills, we might help you to recover more compensation than you might be able to recover on your own.