A pedestrian accident can cause devastating injury for the pedestrian due to the lack of protection from the road and the vehicle that causes the accident. Unfortunately, many drivers fail to exercise adequate precautions when sharing the road with pedestrians, which can significantly increase the risk of a damaging accident.

How do pedestrian accidents occur? Several common problems on the road can increase the risk of a damaging pedestrian accident. A pedestrian accident lawyer can help you understand the causes and consequences of these accidents and help you seek the compensation you deserve.

Cause #1: Dangerous Intersections

Some streets have clear pedestrian infrastructure, making it easy for people to get around the area on foot. They may have clear crosswalks, posted signs that indicate pedestrian crossings, or even crossing guards that help pedestrians cross those intersections safely. Unfortunately, other intersections do not have those same guards in place.

Several factors can create a dangerous intersection with a higher overall risk of pedestrian accidents.

  • Confusing signs or signals. Many intersections make it difficult to tell who has the right of way and when. In many cases, pedestrians may struggle to figure out when they can cross the road safely, especially if drivers lack clear indications that provide them with insight into when pedestrians may join them on the road.
  • Poor lighting and visibility. Passenger vehicle drivers need time to see pedestrians as they approach. Intersections with clear obstacles that prevent drivers from seeing pedestrians or do not offer adequate lighting may cause a higher risk of pedestrian accidents.
  • No clear pedestrian crossings. In some areas, pedestrians may have to decide when and where to safely cross the street. Since drivers do not know when to look out for them, pedestrians may have a greater risk of serious injury in those areas.
  • High speeds. Intersections that drivers often approach at high rates of speed may have greater risk to pedestrians than intersections with slower speed limits, where drivers may travel more safely.

In dangerous intersections, the driver may need to exercise more caution to ensure they can safely share the road with pedestrians.

Cause #2: Driver Distraction

Distracted driving poses a substantial risk to everyone who shares the road with that distracted driver. Pedestrians, however, may face even greater overall risk. Pedestrians can prove very difficult to see, especially since they do not fit the same basic visual profile as a vehicle, which most drivers look for when they head out on the road.

Drivers can face any number of distractions behind the wheel that can raise the risk that they will cause a serious accident. Most people think first of texting and driving.

However, drivers can also face other distractions, including:

  • Looking down to change the radio station or change music controls on a device.
  • Talking to someone in the vehicle.
  • Engaging in a phone conversation, even on a hands-free device.
  • Eating or drinking, especially messy food or drink, behind the wheel.
  • Dealing with a child or pet in the vehicle.
  • Using a GPS device while driving.

These distractions can all take a driver’s eyes, hands, or attention away from the wheel, increasing the odds that the driver will cause a devastating accident with the pedestrian.

Cognitive distractions can also pose a serious problem for some drivers. Often, drivers have a hard time keeping their attention on the road. They may focus on reaching their destination, on a problem from work, or any other thought that comes through their minds. As a result, many drivers have a hard time determining what happened around them to potentially cause an accident, such as when a pedestrian stepped out into the road or when a light changed.

Cause #3: Lighting Conditions

Lighting helps drivers can see at night. Headlights alone may not provide the lighting needed to spot pedestrians, especially in rain or other conditions that may decrease visibility.

Unfortunately, some areas may not have adequate lighting to stave off the risk of pedestrian accidents. Pedestrians may have a greater risk of accidents around dawn and dusk due to the uncertain lighting conditions often present during those times. Furthermore, pedestrians may have more accidents at night since drivers may have a harder time seeing them.

Cause #4: Speeding

Speeding poses several problems, particularly on urban roads where drivers may, in general, have a greater risk of encountering pedestrians. First, high rates of speed decrease the time a driver has to react to a potential hazard in the area, including a pedestrian in a crosswalk or even a changing light. At a high rate of speed, a driver may need to slam on the brakes or make a turn much faster to avoid an accident with a pedestrian.

Second, high rates of speed frequently increase the force associated with an accident, even if the driver does have the chance to react. Increased force in an accident can mean substantial injury to a pedestrian without protection from that vehicle.

Unfortunately, many drivers try to speed through even high-traffic areas. Sometimes, drivers may even choose to speed during dangerous times of the day when they are more likely to encounter others or run into potential accident conditions. Drivers may speed out of frustration or because they failed to leave adequate time to reach their destinations.

Cause #5: Failure to Yield

Pedestrians have the right of way at most intersections, both marked and unmarked. While a pedestrian should not attempt to enter the intersection with a vehicle already in it, if a vehicle approaches an intersection with a pedestrian waiting, it should stop and allow the pedestrian to cross safely. Pedestrians close enough to pose a danger to the vehicle should receive the right of way.

Some drivers may attempt to keep moving through an intersection, even with the clear presence of a pedestrian in that intersection. Drivers might, for example, try to speed up to keep the pedestrian from crossing since slowing to allow the pedestrian to cross could delay the driver and lead to further complications in his day. This behavior, however, can pose a danger to pedestrians, who may assume that the driver will come to a safe stop and allow him to cross.

Cause #6: Ignoring the Rules of the Road

Drivers have specific rules to keep themselves and others around them safe out on the road. These rules include clear traffic signals and signs that help govern driver behavior. For example, a traffic light not only governs when vehicles can safely cross an intersection and when they should yield to traffic coming from the other direction, but it may also determine when pedestrians can safely cross a busy intersection.

When drivers ignore those clear traffic signals, it can prove devastating for pedestrians who need to share the road with them. Not only can ignoring the rules of the road make it more likely that the driver will fail to notice the presence of a pedestrian, but it may also make it difficult for the pedestrian to predict the behavior of the driver, which may raise the odds that the driver will inadvertently cause an accident.

Cause #7: Inebriation

Drunk drivers have some serious challenges that increase the risk that they will cause an accident.

Inebriation not only interferes with reasoning skills but can also make it difficult for the drunk driver to safely control his vehicle.

  • Tunnel vision. A driver suffering from a high rate of inebriation may suffer from tunnel vision, which may make it difficult for him to see the presence of a pedestrian in an intersection or on the road.
  • Poor motor control. A driver under the influence of drugs or alcohol may have difficulty controlling the vehicle. Even if the driver attempts to complete a turn, the vehicle may not respond as it should, increasing the risk of a collision.
  • Slowed response times. Often, drugs and alcohol interfere substantially with a driver’s overall response times, which may make it more difficult for that driver to respond to the presence of a pedestrian on the road.

Around 13 percent of pedestrian accidents that end in a fatality involve a driver under the influence of alcohol.

Cause #8: Age

Pedestrian age can increase the risk of an accident and, ultimately, death. Adults over age 65 account for 20 percent of pedestrian deaths each year. Older adults may have a greater risk of injury or death as pedestrians because they need more time to move safely across an intersection. Drivers may not allow adequate time for older pedestrians to take care of what they need to, which can raise the risk that a pedestrian will suffer serious injury or death.

Children also have a greater risk of suffering injuries in a pedestrian accident. Around 20 percent of children under 15 killed in crashes yearly suffer injuries as pedestrians rather than as passengers in a vehicle. Drivers may need to slow down considerably when they see children around them on the road or when they know children may have a higher risk of crossing the road around them. School zones often have lower speed limits than other areas since children may have greater odds of walking on those roads.

Cause #9: Failing to Signal Before Turning

Drivers often do not think twice about turning down a new street. Sometimes, they may completely forget to signal or even choose not to. Pedestrians, however, may rely on those vital signals to let them know when a driver plans to cross the road around them. A driver that fails to signal can end up causing a devastating accident with a pedestrian who thought he could safely cross the road, only for the driver to turn on top of him.

Drivers should be cautious around intersections with pedestrian traffic since those intersections may signal to pedestrians that they can cross safely even when a driver intends to turn at the light.

Cause #10: Dangerous Weather

Poor weather conditions can increase the risk of a variety of traffic accidents. In heavy rain, for example, drivers may need to slow down to decrease the risk of a collision.

Dangerous weather can pose these hazards:

  • Decreased visibility. In heavy rain, drivers will often have a harder time seeing what happens around them. That may mean greater odds of striking a pedestrian since pedestrians prove harder to see than the average passenger vehicle. Decreased visibility may also make it more difficult for the driver to see traffic signs and signals, which means a driver can plow straight through an intersection without seeing a stop sign.
  • Increased distraction. Drivers in heavy rain or other bad weather may keep their attention directly on the road, which can increase the odds that they will miss the presence of a pedestrian.
  • Slick roads. Often, heavy rain means slick roads, which can raise the risk that a driver will end up sliding when he tries to put on the brakes. Those slick roads can pose a particular problem when a driver tries to stop at the last minute for a pedestrian, only to discover that he cannot bring his vehicle to a safe stop.

Drivers should slow down in dangerous weather to reduce the risk of an accident and increase their ability to respond to a potential hazard, including an unanticipated pedestrian presence. Unfortunately, some drivers do not slow down as they should, even in dangerous weather conditions.

Contact a Lawyer After Your Pedestrian Accident

If you suffer injuries in a pedestrian accident, having a lawyer on your side can help you pursue the compensation you deserve. Contact a San Diego personal injury law firm’s attorney as soon after your accident as possible to learn more about how you can best navigate your claim.

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