Written by Keith V. Trantolo
You approach the curb and know you have the right-of-way to enter the crosswalk, but you still look both ways to be safe. Although it’s dark, no cars look to be approaching the intersection. However, once you get to the center of the road a car appears out of nowhere and you freeze. After you’re hit, the driver does stop but the damage has been done.
Many pedestrian accidents mirror this scenario: At night, in an urban area and on a major road, where the driver travels above the speed limit. According to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), nearly three-quarters of traffic-related fatalities happen in cities and 70 percent do not occur at intersections. In fact, you’re no safer crossing at a designated crosswalk than you are an unmarked road.
Keep in mind, the driver may not always be at fault. Many times, an accident occurs when a pedestrian crosses the road without looking at traffic, is distracted by a mobile device or is drunkenly walking after dark. In these cases, drivers do not notice the pedestrian until it’s too late or incorrectly assume he or she is abiding by standard traffic rules.
Whether you’re the driver in this predicament or a pedestrian severely injured by a speeding motorist, where do you go from here? Start by learning about safety on the road and your rights as a driver and pedestrian.
NHTSA’s Pedestrian Safety guidelines illustrate the growing problem of pedestrian accidents and the increasing fatalities that accompany them. This resource, designed for the most vulnerable populations, offers tips for staying safe as you walk along the road and cross the street.
Several factors contribute to these figures and the Governors Highway Safety Association has put together an infographic of common causes, such as distracted walking and legalized marijuana use.
Many campaigns have shed light on the perils of distracted driving, but distracted walking has become a prominent issue, as many pedestrians walk with their mobile devices. The National Safety Council goes over the risks of distracted walking, including dangers and tips for staying safe.
On the other hand, smartphones and MP3 players are not always to blame. According to a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, alcohol plays a large role in many pedestrian fatalities. In fact, you’re more likely to survive one of these accidents as a drunk driver than you are as an inebriated pedestrian.
It’s not enough to simply raise awareness of these instances. In fact, poor street and roadway designs may partially contribute to these accidents. With the goal of zero deaths on American roadways, the American Traffic Safety Services Association aims to draw attention to and improve these issues.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) also offers a similar guide for reducing pedestrian fatalities from a structural standpoint – in terms of road design, traffic improvements and vehicle features.
Bicyclists are also prone to pedestrian accidents. To stay safe on two wheels next to a roadway, start with the U.S. DOT Federal Highway Administration’s comprehensive guideline to pedestrian and bicycle safety.
Each year, motorists hit more than 1,100 pedestrians and 540 bicyclists on average on Connecticut roads. According to the NHTSA, these accidents result in roughly 35 fatalities. Even if you survive, the injuries have long-term consequences: extensive rehabilitation, conditions that impact your quality of life and reduced earnings.
Run by the Connecticut Department of Transportation through a partnership with the Connecticut Children’s Injury Prevention Center, Watch for Me CT draws attention to these statistics and strives to reduce the number of pedestrian and bicyclist deaths. Local programs guide this mission through a combination of targeted education, messages and police enforcement, reinforcing what happens when you violate traffic safety laws. Watch for Me CT also addresses its safety tips to all potentially involved parties – pedestrians, motorists, and bicyclists.
As a Connecticut resident, you should also be familiar with state laws. The Connecticut Judicial Branch Law Libraries cover all state-wide laws concerning crosswalks, traffic signals, walking alongside the road and rules of the road for drivers in these instances.