In theory, walking seems like a safe mode of transportation. It’s easy to control your direction, you’re traveling at a low rate of speed…what could go wrong? Even toddlers can do it. Your most serious concern might be tripping or slipping.
Unfortunately, the equation changes when you introduce cars, trucks, buses, motorcycles, and other motorized vehicles into the equation. Pedestrians, obviously, are at a significant disadvantage when encountering a large, fast-moving machine. Even bicyclists can pose a threat to pedestrians.
Pedestrian Accidents and Fatalities Statistics in California
Between 2007 and 2013, the rate of pedestrian death in California increased by 11%. In 2016, 867 pedestrians were killed in California traffic accidents. That number was not only the highest in the nation, but accounts for 14.4% of all pedestrian fatalities in the United States during the same period.
Pedestrian safety initiatives have had an impact. In 2016, despite growing pedestrian fatality rates around the country, California saw an 11% decrease. Still, one in four traffic fatalities in Orange County is a pedestrian, and the statewide rate is similar.
Risk Factors for Pedestrian Injuries and Deaths in Los Angeles
Pedestrian Risks in Los Angeles County
While any pedestrian can be the victim of a traffic accident, certain characteristics and behaviors put pedestrians at greater risk. For example:
• Male pedestrians are more likely to be injured or killed in traffic than female pedestrians
• Children are at a greater risk of death from pedestrian accidents, due in large part to their smaller size
• People aged 65 and older account for 19% of pedestrian deaths nationwide, though they make up only 15% of the population
• About 1/3 of pedestrians killed in traffic were legally intoxicated at the time of the accident
Risky Areas for Pedestrians in Los Angeles
In 2015, the LA Times analyzed pedestrian accidents in the city from 2002-2013 and identified more than 800 dangerous intersections. The paper found 1% of intersections accounted for nearly ¼ of Los Angeles pedestrian accidents. A significant percentage of the most dangerous intersections were clustered in high-traffic areas between downtown Los Angeles and Hollywood.
Some of the factors that make these areas more dangerous for pedestrians include:
• Wide boulevards that keep cars and other motor vehicles moving quickly
• A high volume of both automobile and foot traffic
• A large concentration of both drivers and pedestrians who are unfamiliar with the area
• Gentle corners that allow cars to turn without slowing significantly
Some of the intersections specifically designated as dangerous for pedestrians include:
• Hollywood Boulevard and North Highland Avenue
• South Central Avenue and East Vernon Avenue
• South Vermont Avenue and West Expedition Boulevard
• Hollywood Boulevard and North McCadden Place
• South San Pedro Street and 7th Street
Of course, pedestrian accidents can occur anywhere cars and pedestrians share space or are in close proximity. It’s imperative that pedestrians and drivers alike remain conscious of the risk and take precautions, whether at a dangerous intersection, a low-traffic intersection where there has never before been a pedestrian accident, between intersections, and even in parking lots and other off-road locations.
Safety Tips for California Pedestrians
Walking is good for your health and traveling on foot is good for the environment. For most of us, minimizing foot travel is not the answer. Instead, California pedestrians should treat walking like driving, remaining alert and employing good judgment and defensive strategies.
Some key examples include:
• Avoiding walking on the road or in other areas with traffic when you are intoxicated, as inebriation significantly increases the risk of a serious pedestrian accident
• Always observe traffic signals and cross at crosswalks wherever possible
• Stay vigilant for risks on the road, just as you would if you were driving
• Walk on paths or sidewalks rather than the roadway whenever possible
• Where there are no paths or sidewalks available, stick to the shoulder of the road, and walk facing traffic
• Wear brightly-colored or reflective clothing
• Don’t wear headphones while walking
• Avoid distractions such as talking on a cell phone or texting while walking
• Never assume that a car will stop for you, or will obey a traffic signal
If there is a Pedestrian Accident, Who is At Fault?
A California driver is obligated to yield the right of way to a pedestrian, so in most cases a driver who injures or kills a pedestrian will be at least partially responsible, even if the pedestrian also contributed to the accident.
Some of the ways negligent drivers cause injury and death to pedestrians include:
• Distracted driving—a driver who is texting or otherwise distracted does not see a pedestrian in time to adjust his course, or drifts out of his or her lane
• Turning into the intersection while a pedestrian is crossing—a significant percentage of pedestrian accidents occur while the driver is making a left turn
• Driving too fast through residential or other areas with high pedestrian activity—the driver does not have time to brake when a person steps into the street
• Aggressive driving, such as pushing through changing traffic lights, turning or changing lanes into traffic or pedestrian traffic
Speed is also a significant factor in the seriousness of the injury and risk of death. When a car is traveling at a higher rate of speed, pedestrian injuries are typically more serious, and are more likely to be fatal.
When a negligent driver injures a pedestrian, he or she may be responsible for a wide range of damages. Some of the most common include:
• Medical expenses associated with the accident
• Compensation for lost wages and other income
• Compensation for pain and suffering
If the injury is serious and ongoing, damages may include anticipated future medical expenses and projected loss of earning capacity across the injured pedestrian’s lifetime.
Working with an Experienced California Pedestrian Accident Lawyer
While liability might seem obvious when you’ve been hit by a car, the driver and injured pedestrian are not the only candidates for liability in a pedestrian accident case. For example, a municipal body or private property owner may be partially liable if the design or condition of the road, intersection, parking lot or other area increased the risk to the injured party.
To successfully pursue a pedestrian accident claim, the injured party must generally prove that another person or entity was liable, or to persuade the insurance company and attorney for the other party that a judge or jury would be likely to find him liable. The injured party must also prove the extent of damages, including any projected future medical expenses or diminished earning capacity.
An experienced pedestrian accident attorney can be your best resource for ensuring that technical requirements are met, drafting compliant and effective pleadings, securing and working with expert witnesses, and negotiating with the responsible party’s counsel. If you were hit by a car or other motor vehicle while walking, your next step should be to schedule a free consultation.