Kelley Uustal Trial Attorney
November 9, 2017

Pedestrian Deaths in the US – Link Between Faulty Infrastructure and Multi-Million Dollar Settlements

According to the latest available data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2015, there were 5,376 pedestrians killed in the US in crashes with motor vehicles. A staggering 70,000 American pedestrians were injured in crashes over the same one-year period. The 2015 statistics have also revealed that:

  • “The number of pedestrian fatalities was highest in California (742), followed by Florida (628) and Texas (537).
  • South Dakota, Wyoming, and Vermont had the fewest number of pedestrian fatalities, 5 in each of those States.
  • The State percentages of pedestrian fatalities by total traffic fatalities ranged from a low of 3.4 percent (Wyoming) to a high of 56.5 percent (District of Columbia), compared to the national average of 15.3 percent.
  • The highest State pedestrian fatality rate per 100,000 population was in Delaware (3.70), followed by Florida (3.10).
  • [The city of] Detroit had the highest pedestrian fatality rate per 100,000 population (6.79), followed by Dallas (4.31), Memphis (4.27), and Jacksonville (4.15).”

While the number of traffic fatalities has diminished by 18% over the last decade, pedestrian fatalities have increased by 12%. In other words, US streets are generally safer today, but they are not safer for pedestrians.

Crash-related pedestrian injuriescost the US billions of dollars annually. The 2012 National Survey on Bicyclist and Pedestrian Attitudes and Behaviorsattributed the majority of pedestrian injuries to poor quality facilities. Bad drivers are not the only ones to blame for pedestrians getting injured.

According toSmart Growth America’s Dangerous by Design 2016 report, poor pedestrian infrastructure is at the root of the bulk of pedestrian fatalities.

“Everyone involved in the street design process – from federal policymakers to local elected leaders to transportation engineers – must take action to end pedestrian deaths… So long as streets are built to prioritize high speeds at the cost of pedestrian safety, this will remain a problem. And as the nation’s population grows older on the whole, and as we become more diverse both racially and economically, the need for these safety improvements will only become more dire in years to come,” Smart Growth America’s walkable city advocates concluded.

In Bakersfield, California, the deadliest city for pedestrians in the golden state, local authorities have found a particular solution for the problem of “dangerous crosswalks”. They plan to remove them!

This will make the city safer for drivers, and even deadlier for pedestrians.

During a public hearing held on October 11th, prompted by local residents trying to save two crosswalks slated for removal, the city council agreed with staff to go ahead and remove them, but vowed to design a substitute for another crosswalk.

The city of Bakersfield also plans to widen streets and improve conditions for drivers around a problematic area, but residents disagree that this will help reduce the number of pedestrian fatalities.

For Tony Dang, the executive director of California Walks, local authorities are trying to shift the blame towards the pedestrians, for example, attributing an excessive amount of deaths to jaywalking. Dang believes removing crosswalks will only make things harder for pedestrians.

When a pedestrians is hit by a car in America, driver responsibility is often only the tip of the iceberg. Local authorities must ensure that pedestrians can safely walk around their neighborhoods, by providing adequate infrastructure and signage.

A $15 million settlement recently reached in Los Angeles is a testimony to what administrations will continue to face as long as they fail to protect pedestrians. John Leopold Victoria’s family had sued both a driver and the city after he was hit on a crosswalk at a busy Hollywood intersection.

According to allegations resolved by the multi-million dollar settlement, the intersection had a faulty design, local traffic laws were not sufficiently enforced, and markings for the crosswalk were obscured. As a result of the collision, Mr. Victoria spent months in a coma and suffered severe brain damage. “He was a great guy,” a spokesperson for the victim has commented, “he needs 24/7 care. He’s a young child in an adult’s body – and always will be.”

If you or a family member were injured by a vehicle as a pedestrian in Florida, you should act quickly, as there are strict time limits on filing claims; evidence and witnesses become more challenging to locate as time goes by; and insurance companies may already be building a defense.

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