Most Common Causes of Pedestrian Accidents

Pedestrian Accident Help Pages

Many Accidents, Few Causes

According to the  National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) over seventy-thousand pedestrians are injured and more than 4,000 are killed in pedestrian accidents each year here in The United States. While those figures are only a small portion of the total number of motor vehicle accidents, the proportion of pedestrians killed and wounded compared to automobile passengers is extremely exaggerated. Indeed, only 11% of all travel here in The U.S. is by foot but pedestrians are involved in 13% of accident-related deaths.

The sad part is that the vast majority of those injurious and fatal pedestrian accidents are caused by a handful of contributing factors. Indeed, there are just 7 root causes of pedestrian accidents that are at the heart of more than 90% of all automobile-involved injuries.

Pedestrian accidents are almost always the result of driver negligence

While failure to check the crosswalk is normally the main reason (when it's the pedestrian's fault) that pedestrians are struck and injured. However, the most common distractions that cause pedestrian accidents are typically on the part of the driver.


Many of the reported pedestrian accidents that occur in California are caused by drivers that do not take the necessary safety precautions to prevent accidents. This means that even pedestrians obeying traffic laws and using marked crosswalks are still struck by drivers who are negligent. Common causes of pedestrian accidents can normally be linked to some sort of distraction.

Specific causes of pedestrian accidents Have Changed with Technology

The most common causes of serious pedestrian injuries include drivers that fail to stop at stop signs or traffic lights. But when it comes to distractions playing a part in pedestrian accidents, texting is becoming increasingly common as one of the top reasons. Drivers are paying more attention to their phones (texting, calls, GPS, music, etc.) than to the pedestrians on the roadways.


Of course other common causes of pedestrian accidents include drivers that are simply not paying attention to their surroundings, those under the influence of a substance or drivers that are speeding.

The 7 Most Common Causes of Pedestrian Accidents in California

While statistics vary from year to year, the following most common causes of pedestrian accidents have consistently ranked among the top for years. )and, unless something happens to change that, will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.)

1)  Distracted Driving

We tend to think of distracted driving as a relatively new hazard on the roadways with the increase in the prevalence of mobile phones, GPS units, in-car Wi-Fi and other potential hazards. However, distracted driving has been one of the most common causes of pedestrian accidents for decades. Before the cellphone, there were other distractions that split the attention of careless drivers split every day. These included:  food, passengers, radios, surrounding traffic, even newspapers and books that kept driver's eyes off the road.


However, that number of distractions is increasing. In fact, according to NHTSA crash data collection, 10% of fatal crashes and 15% of injurious crashes in 2015 were caused by some sort of distraction. That's why legislators all over the country have been quick to pass laws attempting to minimize the occurrence and impact of distracted driving.

California distracted Driving Laws

In fact, California has a total of four distracted driving laws on the books. The first two make it unlawful for drivers to use handheld phones while operating an automobile. The third law makes it illegal for drivers under the age of 18 to use handheld phones while driving, like the first two, but adds provisions pertaining to the use of hands-free devices (such as Bluetooth headsets) while behind the wheel. The last California cell phone law makes it unlawful for anyone to text while driving.


In each case violating these laws is considered a primary offense (which means the driver can be pulled over if spotted. Punishment for violating these distracted driving laws in California include fines and addition of points to your license (which could result in a suspended or revoked operator's license).

2)  Speeding

Speed is the single most common contributing factor to motor vehicle accidents in The United States. Traveling above the posted speed limit radically increase your risk of being in an accident. In fact, a study presented at the University of California at Berkeley showed that for every 1% increase in an automobile's speed, the chance of being involved in a crash increased by 2 percent.


Speeding also increases your chance of being injured (and injuring others) significantly. That same study found that for every 1% increase in speed, the chance of serious injury increased by 3%  and the risk of a fatality rose by about 4%.  

3)  Failing to yield the right of way to pedestrians at crosswalks

Failing to yield to pedestrians in marked (or unmarked) crosswalks is one of the most common causes of pedestrian accidents nationwide. In fact, Failure to yield accidents account for 20% of fatal and non-fatal accidents in California.


And almost all failure to yield accidents can be attributed to the driver. In fact, California's crosswalk laws guarantee that pedestrians (not automobiles) have the right of way at marked and unmarked crosswalks even when there are no crossing lights in use.


(When cars fail to yield to pedestrians, they do so when turning left more often than right. Why is that? Experts suggest that drivers don't often see pedestrians in crosswalks upon beginning their left turns and are often looking in a different direction at the time of the impact.)

4)  Disobeying traffic signs or signals

You may think that reckless drivers running through stop lights cause a significant portion of pedestrian accidents in California. You'd be wrong. In fact, disobeying traffic signs and signals isn't as common a cause for pedestrians accidents as you might think.


One study found that just 17% of stop sign accidents actually involve a vehicle running through the intersection. Interestingly, most drivers do stop but then either fail to see pedestrians or fail to yield the right of way to them. Those types of failure to yield accidents represent 70% of all crashes which occur at intersections controlled by stop signs.


The statistics are slightly different for intersections controlled by stoplights but reckless drivers simply running through intersections at speed just aren't as common as the other root causes of pedestrian accidents in California.

5)  Failing to signal while turning

Pedestrians have a duty to protect themselves. Indeed, some portions of that duty are codified in California traffic laws. For example, pedestrians must always use available crosswalks, they must walk on certain sides of the street (as determined by traffic flow), and they must obey signs and lights just as drivers do.


Part of the obligation to protect yourself while traveling on foot extends to yielding the roadway to turning cars. But how do you really know if a car is turning at an intersection?


In 2012 a self-report study found that over half of Americans don't use their turn signals when they should. If a driver fails to signal their intention to turn, and a pedestrian steps into the crosswalk, the driver is at fault for the crash, not the pedestrian.

6)  Disregarding weather or traffic conditions

California traffic laws state that drivers have a duty to travel at "prudent" speeds regardless of posted limits. That means they must take into account conditions like the weather and traffic when determining what a "safe" speed is.


Disregarding these conditions and traveling at (or above) the posted limit when it's unsafe can shift liability for a pedestrian accident to the driver even if the pedestrian contributed to the crash. For example, is if a car is traveling at the posted limit in dense fog and strikes a pedestrian who stepped into a crosswalk without waiting for the signal light to change, both individuals could share liability for the pedestrian accident under California's comparative negligence statutes.

7)  Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol

According to the IIHS-Highway Loss Data  Institute, intoxicated drivers cause 13% of all pedestrian accidents.

A single alcoholic beverage can begin to erode a driver's ability to perceive and react to road hazards in time to avoid a crash. After just 4 drinks an average weight man would be considered legally impaired (with BAC of .08 or higher). That threshold drops to just three drinks for an average weight woman.


And even before a driver becomes legally impaired, their ability to safely operate a motor vehicle is degraded. Just two drinks can:

  • Increase lack of judgment
  • Exaggerate behavior
  • Impair coordination
  • Reduce ability to detect moving objects
  • Dull alertness
  • Slow small-muscle response

What is a Driver's Duty of Care?

What do all 7 of these common causes of pedestrian accidents have in common? They're all related to a driver's failure to maintain their duty of care. Generally, drivers are legally obligated to exercise reasonable care. That definition of "reasonable care" depends on such things as weather, lighting conditions, traffic, pedestrian density, and a host of other factors.


When a driver fails to exercise reasonable care, it can be legally construed as negligence. If a pedestrian is injured by a negligent act, the driver responsible for the injury could be held legally liable and be ordered to pay financial compensation for a victim's injuries and losses.

As a pedestrian you have a responsibility to also be aware of your surroundings and obey all traffic laws

Jaywalking or distracted walking can place you in serious danger of causing a pedestrian injury accident. When crossing the street or walking near traffic, you should put your phone down and pay attention to your surroundings. If you get hit, even if the driver is legally at fault, you may still suffer very serious injuries. At that point, it really doesn’t matter who is at fault. So, do your part to be alert, pay attention and avoid being the victim of driver negligence at all costs.


Pedestrian accidents happen, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything about it

In California, serious injury pedestrian accidents are sadly a common part of life, but that does not mean that those responsible should not be accountable for their actions. For the most part, pedestrian accidents involve unsuspecting individuals who are hit by a vehicle due in no part of their own negligence. If you have been involved in a serious pedestrian accident, you need a personal injury attorney who is on your side and dedicated to helping you recover reasonable compensation for your injuries, pain and inconvenience.


The right attorney for your case will assist you in getting money from the insurance company of the driver responsible for your injuries. As an innocent pedestrian, you are the victim, and you require legal representation from an experienced pedestrian accident attorney.

What to do if you are involved in a pedestrian accident

If you've fallen victim to one of these common causes of pedestrian accidents in California, you may be able to seek compensation in order to help ease your recovery process. That means victims of such drivers can seek insurance claims, personal injury payouts, and may even be able to take at-fault parties to court.


So, make sure to get the driver’s insurance information (and, if possible take a picture of their license plate.) Many pedestrians that are involved in these types of accidents suffer serious injuries and require immediate medical assistance to help them recover. First things first. Get the medical attention you need! Then, get a qualified personal injury lawyer on your side, so you are apprised of your rights and can get the compensation you deserve.


Are You Ready to Start t​​​​he Road to Recovery?

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