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California One of the Deadliest States for Pedestrians

Author: The Law Offices of Scott Warmuth

Published: 2011-04-29

Synopsis and Key Points:

California accounts for a significant proportion of the national data with a reported 214 pedestrian deaths and 4985 injuries in Los Angeles County alone.

Main Digest

Although pedestrian fatalities have actually been on the decline over the last decade, the number is still disturbingly high.

Motor vehicle collisions involving pedestrians can happen in an instant: when a pedestrian steps off the curb, drivers inattentive to the crossing have only moments to react. Although pedestrian fatalities have actually been on the decline over the last decade, the number is still disturbingly high.

According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration figures, 4,092 people died in 2009 in pedestrian accidents. Nonfatal pedestrian injuries are even more common: approximately 59,000 were recorded in 2009 alone, and hospital records indicate that such injuries are drastically underreported to the police.

California accounts for a significant proportion of the national data. In 2008, the California Highway Patrol's Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System reported 214 pedestrian deaths and 4,985 injuries in Los Angeles County alone. Given the high incidence of pedestrian/motor vehicle crashes, it is essential for all Californians to understand the problem, as well as what can be done to prevent and remedy pedestrian accidents.

Managing the Problem of Pedestrian Accidents

Along with New York, Florida, and Texas, California is one of the four deadliest states for pedestrians. Taken together, these four states account for 42 percent of all pedestrian fatalities in the United States. This breakdown is more than coincidence: about 72 percent of fatal pedestrian accidents occur in urban areas.

So what has California done to make roads and sidewalks safer for pedestrians? In 2006, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) published a comprehensive study based on seven years of data relating to pedestrian collisions. When combined with demographic and other factors, patterns of accidents were visually mapped. This data has allowed the city to better plan preventative measures. Along with targeted educational initiatives, physical re-engineering of problem areas and heightened enforcement of risk-creating traffic violations have been utilized to increase safety.

Proper knowledge can also help individual drivers and pedestrians with safety tips. For example, during the seven years of the Los Angeles data, the most common location of pedestrian collisions was mid-block not in a crosswalk (when crossing mid-block, the law states that pedestrians are not allowed to obstruct traffic). Both drivers and pedestrians should be especially attentive in such areas, and if possible, walkers should look for safer crossing points.

So long as a cross is displaying "due caution," pedestrians legally have the right of way at both marked and unmarked crosswalks (crosswalks exist at intersections, whether or not there are painted lines to mark them). Of course, even when entitled to cross, a pedestrian should never step in front of a vehicle that cannot safely stop--of the incidents in the Las Angeles DOT report, citations for pedestrian right of way at crosswalks were issued in 27.6 percent of pedestrian crashes.

Remedies for Pedestrian Accident Victims

Despite exercising due caution and stringently obeying right of way laws, pedestrians can still be injured or killed by negligent drivers. Speeding, failure to properly yield the right of way, or distracted driving can all be contributing factors when a driver strikes a pedestrian. A variety of other egregious driver behavior, like alcohol impairment or disregard for traffic control signals, also commonly causes pedestrian crashes.

When a pedestrian is injured or killed through the wrongful action of a driver or another, it is likely that compensation can be recovered in a legal action for negligence. Even when the pedestrian is partially at fault, if the driver contributed to or exacerbated the injury by a failure to exercise reasonable care under the circumstances, a court still may award monetary damages.

Damages can be calculated to compensate for a variety of harms to the victim, including the cost of medical expenses, lost wages resulting from an inability to work, property damage, and pain and suffering. In certain cases, especially those involving gross driver misconduct, punitive damages may also be awarded.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a pedestrian crash, it is important to contact an experienced personal injury attorney. A California pedestrian accident attorney can analyze the facts of your case and determine whether you could be entitled to compensation. Motor vehicle accidents that injure pedestrians are a common occurrence in California, and many are caused by negligence on the part of the driver. Your attorney will help you hold dangerous drivers accountable, and allow you to collect the compensation you deserve.

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