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The Main Causes of Pedestrian Accidents and Why They Happen


The Centers for Disease Control estimates that 137,000 pedestrians were treated for injuries as a result of car accidents in 2017. An additional 5,977 pedestrian accidents resulted in fatalities. There are many causes that contribute to these accidents, including negligence, distracted driving or walking, and poor visibility. Learn more about the main causes of pedestrian accidents, including some of the statistics and how these underlying causes end up contributing to serious injuries.

What’s the Difference Between Pedestrian Accidents and Other Types of Accidents?

Pedestrian accidents are usually defined as car accidents that involve someone who is walking or jogging along a roadway, sidewalk, or public drive. It also includes pedestrians crossing roads at designated crosswalks. One big difference between pedestrian accidents and accidents only involving vehicles is that pedestrians are at a greater risk of injury. Even if a vehicle hits a pedestrian while traveling at a low speed, the impact could cause serious damage.

Pedestrian accidents can also differ from accidents involving cyclists. In California, bicyclists need to follow the same traffic rules as drivers, and drivers need to respect cyclists on the road. If an accident happens between a cyclist and driver, determining who is at fault depends on whether the cyclist was following motor vehicle traffic laws.

Where Do Most Pedestrian Accidents Occur?

Image via Pixabay by AJEL

Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that the most prolific areas for pedestrian accidents are in urban areas, which account for 79% of accidents. Pedestrians walking along or crossing open roads account for 74% of total accidents. Pedestrian accidents that occur at night make up 76% of all reported incidents.

Research from the Governors Highway Safety Association shows that Los Angeles County had 265 pedestrian fatalities in 2016, which was the most of any county in the U.S. The GHSA also reports that more fatalities happen on local street municipalities than any other road type throughout the United States.

Common Causes of Pedestrian-Vehicle Accidents

Some of the most common causes of pedestrian accidents are due to either driver or pedestrian negligence. Some of the main contributing factors of negligence include:


Drivers who speed in areas with low speed limits are less likely to be able to stop in time in the event a pedestrian crosses. Neighborhood roads, community streets, and school areas have lower speed limits for the purpose of protecting both drivers and pedestrians.

Similarly, pedestrians who traverse busy roadways and cross in dangerous zones are also putting themselves at higher risk of getting into an accident. The NCHS reports that pedestrians who are hit at 30 miles per hour or less have a 10% risk of death, while speeds exceeding 40 miles per hour increases this risk up to 80% or more.

Being Under the Influence

Driving while under the influence of alcohol or other substances is not only unsafe but illegal too. Unfortunately, accidents do happen when people operate vehicles while under the influence. According to the CDC, about 47% of pedestrian accidents that result in fatalities involve alcohol intoxication for the driver, pedestrian, or both.

The CDC reports that at least one in every three pedestrian fatalities involved a pedestrian with a blood-alcohol level of at least 0.08 grams per deciliter. Additionally, 17% of drivers responsible for fatal pedestrian accidents had a blood-alcohol level of 0.08.

Distracted Driving

Distracted driving accounts for an estimated 10% of fatal pedestrian accidents and 15% of non-life threatening crashes, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation and the End Distracted Driving organization. Distracting driving can include drivers who use a cellphone, eat, operate a navigation system, applying makeup, or adjusting volume controls.

Poor Weather Conditions

Poor weather conditions, such as heavy rain or snow, can also reduce the visibility of both drivers and pedestrians, increasing the likelihood of accidents. Additionally, icy or slick roads can cause drivers to more easily lose control of their vehicles, which can cause crashes.

Poor Sight Distance and Failure to Stop

Poor visibility and the inability to see the pedestrian also increase pedestrian accidents. This is especially true for pedestrians who are injured in accidents that occur at night. The NHTSA reports that out of an average of 1,031 pedestrian deaths that occur on a Saturday, 837 of those fatalities are at night. Additionally, pedestrian accidents can often occur when drivers cannot see stop signs or yield signs in areas with heavy foot traffic.

Unmarked Pedestrian Crosswalks

According to the NHTSA, crosswalk accidents account for 72% of pedestrian accidents, especially if the pedestrian crosswalk lacks appropriate “stop” and “go” lights for safely crossing. Poorly marked crossways can lead to pedestrians crossing when oncoming traffic has the right-of-way, which increases the risk of an accident occurring.

Left-Hand Turns

Even when a pedestrian crosses a street at a clearly marked crosswalk with appropriate signage, they’re still at risk of drivers hitting them while making a left-hand turn. In fact, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, almost one-third of all pedestrian accidents that occurred at crosswalks in 2018 were the result of drivers making a left-hand turn. Even if the light is green, drivers must yield to pedestrians at crosswalks because they have the right-of-way. Drivers only have the right of way if the traffic light displays a green left arrow.

Arterial Roadways

Arterial roadways are lanes, intersections, or drives that connect major roads and highways. Pedestrians who walk these roads are at a greater risk of being involved in a fatal accident because of the amount of traffic present on these routes. Additionally, because of the higher speed limits along these roads, pedestrians can have an increased risk of being involved in more serious accidents.

If you or a loved one have been injured in a pedestrian accident or if you have lost a loved one due to driver negligence, get in touch with us at Lem Garcia Law to speak with a licensed pedestrian accident lawyer. We’ll help you determine your next steps after the accident and help you through our legal services.