During springtime, we’re exposed to more daylight hours and warmer temperatures that encourage us to get outside. While a walk or bike ride around the neighborhood may sound nice, pedestrians and riders need to be on the lookout for car and truck drivers, who may not always be watching out for you.
Based on figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA), there were 5,977 pedestrian accidents in 2017. The following year, pedestrian deaths from motor vehicle accidents totaled 6,277 – the highest since 1990 and up 35 percent over the past 10 years.
Pedestrian fatalities tend to surge in spring, when daylight saving time ends, and in fall as days become shorter. Why is this the case?
Pedestrian Expectations & Poor Road Design
Whether you live in the city or suburbs, studies show US roadway design is not very pedestrian or bicyclist-friendly.
Florida’s Complete Streets Law shows the effects of pedestrian-friendly configuration to reduce accidents. Since the law went into effect in the 1980s, pedestrian deaths in the state have declined, compared to other Sunbelt cities with similar arrangements.
The Governors Highway Safety Association points out that increases in pedestrian accidents often come down to unsafe road crossings, distracted driving, drivers opting for larger vehicles, and the distractions smartphones pose to pedestrians.
Furthermore, some pedestrians still expect drivers to stop whether in the crosswalk or jaywalking. However, the driver cannot always stop in time, particularly when not paying attention or unable to see the pedestrian.
Pedestrian Accidents Increase with Daylight Saving
A study spanning two decades looked at over 700,000 car accidents and found that fatal crashes increase around daylight saving time. The number also surges near the “fall back” period when days are shorter and motorists drive home in the dark.
Losing an hour can disrupt sleep cycles, influencing well a motorist can see what’s ahead and his or her reaction time. Data from a AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study found that drivers who get six to seven hours of sleep are more likely to be involved in crashes than those who get eight or more hours. Researchers also noticed that accidents spike four to five times for individuals functioning on five or fewer hours of sleep.
Highlighting the “fall back” period, a 2016 report from NY1 News found that decreased visibility due to shorter daylight hours challenges a driver’s ability to see pedestrians in the street.
Children Are Especially Vulnerable
A Jacobi Medical Center study examining a year’s worth of data from a Philadelphia hospital found that children have a higher likelihood of being hit by cars in springtime. Based on descriptions from first responders, researchers discovered children were more likely to be victims during school dismissal hours (2 to 5 p.m.) and in the evening hours of 5 to 9 p.m.
June saw the highest number of accidents involving children. In half of all cases, the victims weren’t alone: 40 percent were with a parent or guardian and 34 percent were with friends or peers. Among common locations for pedestrian accidents were bus stops and schools, and incidents were more likely to occur mid-block.
COVID-19 Pedestrian Safety
During the global Coronavirus pandemic, we remind drivers and pedestrians to stay vigilant. Although there may be less cars traveling the roadways, it’s important for us all to pay attention. Pedestrians should never walk and text; the dangerous risk of walking off the sidewalk into oncoming traffic still exists. If you are driving during this time, avoid distractions and be prepared to react to pedestrians in the road.
Tips to Reduce Pedestrian Accidents
If you’re a driver, keep the following in mind:
- Give pedestrians the right of way – it’s the law, unless the person is jaywalking or dismisses a traffic signal.
- Don’t drive drunk – it’s the number one cause of pedestrian injuries and fatalities.
- Always look out for pedestrians, especially when the weather compromises your visibility.
- Pay attention in areas where you’re more likely to spot children, near schools and in neighborhoods.
- Always stop at crosswalks when you see a pedestrian step into the street. Never speed past someone walking in a marked crosswalk.
If you’re a pedestrian, keep the following in mind:
- For your safety, always follow crosswalk rules – use marked, designated crosswalks, rather than jaywalking.
- Never drink alcohol and walk, especially at night in busy traffic areas. It’s better to call a cab or Uber.
- Always walk facing traffic, so you can observe and react to passing cars.
- Stay on the sidewalks – never walk in the street. If there is no sidewalk, stay as far away from traffic as you can.
- If you’re out walking, increase your visibility with bright-colored, reflective clothing or have a flashlight on-hand.
- Never assume a driver will stop for you.
- Always make yourself visible, especially in situations you might go unseen – for instance, if a driver is backing out of a driveway, cars are entering traffic or an object obscures you from the roadway.
Pedestrian accidents are very serious, as the victim is often caught off guard with no protection. If you or a loved one was hit by a car, contact Trantolo & Trantolo to hold the negligent motorist responsible for reckless driving behavior.