More urban lifestyle could underlie the increase in pedestrian accidents

Walkers, joggers and bikers are common in more urban areas. In the San Diego area, the numbers of pedestrians are even higher with the many visitors to the city who walk to their destinations. A recent San Diego area pedestrian accident illustrated a concerning national trend.

A driver turning left failed to see a pedestrian as she crossed the street in a crosswalk. The woman suffered a broken hip and arm in the serious accident. The driver of the vehicle told police that he was unable to see because the sun was in his eyes. Pedestrian accidents are on the increase across the country.

After declining for several decades, the number of pedestrian-vehicle fatalities is on the rise. In 2011, the most recent year for available for U.S. Department of Transportation statistics, the number of pedestrian killed in traffic accidents was 4,432. This was an increase of 8 percent from 2009.

The number of injury accidents is even greater. In 2011, approximately 69,000 people suffered an injury in a pedestrian accident. According to agency estimates, 11,000 of those injured were under the age of 14. This is troubling as many schoolchildren prepare for the start of another year.

When and where do most accidents occur?

The statistics are generally not surprising. Nearly 75 percent of pedestrian fatalities occur in an urban environment. Almost as many, occur during the nighttime. Most weekday accidents occur from 4 p.m. to midnight. Driver visibility can be impaired at dusk as many people commute home from work. Weekend accidents tend to happen later from between 8 p.m. and 4 a.m. and tend to involve alcohol use.

The majority of pedestrian accidents take place at non-intersection crossings. After six pedestrian deaths in San Diego in the first months of the year, police took action. In March, they targeted jaywalkers and pedestrians who failed to wait for the walk signal. The fine for pedestrians who cross against a light is the same for a driver of a vehicle. Law enforcement hoped that the crackdown would help change behaviors.

However, a pedestrian's failure to cross at an intersection or in a crosswalk does not relieve the driver of an automobile from the duty drive at a safe speed, to be alert and to keep a proper lookout for pedestrians, even jaywalking pedestrians. When an automobile driver later claims that "I never saw the pedestrian, I don't know where he came from," the court may well conclude that the driver's inattentiveness was a substantial contributing factor to the accident, rendering the driver responsible for the pedestrians injuries. Under such circumstances, the driver's insurance company would be liable to pay damages.

Distractions: a factor for drivers and pedestrians

In California, it is against the law to use a handheld cellphone while driving, but drivers can use the hands-free devices to talk and text while driving. Having a conversation takes a drivers attention off the road. Looking at directions on a GPS or inputting a new address could also mean that a driver takes his or her eyes from the road.

Those on foot who are distracted may also be at a higher risk. Finalizing a text to friends waiting at a nearby restaurant may not seem like a big deal. But if it means not seeing the car turning left into the crosswalk, it could result in a serious accident.

When injured in a pedestrian-vehicle accident, contact a personal injury attorney to discuss what happened. It might take some investigation to discover that the negligence of another person was to blame.