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Pedestrian Death Rates Rise Sharply

After decades of pedestrian-vehicle accidents being on the decline, in recent years they have begun to rise again on a national level. The recent uptick in the total number of these accidents may not be enough to indicate that there is a pedestrian accident trend going on here, it is enough to cause alarm and hopefully compel transportation officials and city planners to implement strategies for safer walking.

Going back to statistics from 1975, more than 7,500 pedestrians were killed in accidents involving motor vehicles in the United States. Fast forward to 2009 and that figure dropped to just above 4,000. The most recent pedestrian accident statistics are from 2011, and they indicate that closer to 4,500 pedestrian-vehicle accidents leading to death occur every year. These pedestrian accidents account for 14 percent of all traffic deaths in 2011.

Pedestrian deaths still only make up a small fraction of total deaths in the United States annually. About 2.4 million people die in this country every year from a variety of different causes. The number one leading cause of death in the U.S. is heart disease, which claims 600,000 lives (approximately) every year. Even the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S., suicide, only accounts for about 38,000 deaths per year.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) also revealed statistics that pedestrian accident victims aged 70 and older died in these accidents at twice the rate of younger victims (22 per million). This increase in annual pedestrian fatalities could be in part due to an increased number of cyclists on the roads as well as an increase in elderly people who choose to walk.

This increase in pedestrian deaths could be the result of distracted drivers as well as distracted pedestrians. Not only are more drivers using their cell phones while driving than ever before, but pedestrians use their phones while walking. Distraction is dangerous on both sides of this argument. Another contributing factor is walking/driving while drinking or on drugs.

New York State’s recent campaign against distracted driving includes a new law (2011) that allows law enforcement to stop drivers solely for texting while driving, whereas previously law enforcement could only stop a driver for some other traffic violation and then issue a texting and driving citation as a secondary offense. This amped-up enforcement against distracted driving is warranted, says New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, because statistics show that more than 25,000 crashes resulting in injury and death were linked to distracted driving in New York in 2011, compared to 4,628 linked to alcohol.

Article 27 of the Vehicle and Traffic Law of The State of New York govern the legal rights of pedestrians. The traffic laws are in favor of the pedestrian as the driver must take reasonable cautions in watching for pedestrians and cyclist.

For instance Section 1151 reads as follows:

Pedestrians' right of way in crosswalks. (a) when traffic-control signals are not in place or not in operation the driver of a vehicle shall yield the right of way, slowing down or stopping if need be to so yield, to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a crosswalk on the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling, except that any pedestrian crossing a roadway at a point where a pedestrian tunnel or overpass has been provided shall yield the right of way to all vehicles.

Of course, pedestrians must follow the traffic laws as well but the legislature certainly favors the pedestrian/cyclist over the driver.


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The Law Firm of Steven I. Fried, P.C. - Bronx Personal Injury Attorney
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