Articles Posted in Pedestrian Accidents

Pedestrian deaths had been on a decline since 1980 onward. However, since 2009, there have been a rising number of pedestrian deaths on America’s roads; this increase was bumped further during the pandemic. In fact, pedestrian fatalities have increased faster than other kinds of traffic-related deaths. According to the Governors Highway Safety Administration, which analyzed government data on this point, in 2022, a minimum of 7508 people died after being hit by U.S. drivers. The New York Times’s “The Upshot” tried to come up with answers to this surge in pedestrian death using the hivemind of its readers. These answers ranged from increased smartphone use to increasing podcasts and cataracts.

Some of the reader theories seemed stronger, the Upshot suggested. These included LED headlights, streetlight design, aging drivers, and fewer pedestrians, which has meant fewer norms around safety in driving around pedestrians.

One of the most common issues raised by readers was that brighter LED lights, which are intended to help drivers navigate at night are blinding for both pedestrians and oncoming cars, which can lead to death. However, researchers have found that while LED lights are brighter, but they are also becoming safer. The safety ratings for headlights have improved, too; the higher the rating of the headlight, the lower the collision rates, including car crashes with pedestrians, which suggests they haven’t seriously contributed to increased pedestrian death. Similarly, if people were blinded by headlights, thereby causing fatalities among pedestrians, passenger and driver deaths would have gone up, too, which they had not.

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Although the number of traffic deaths had been falling since the late 1960s, a change attributed to lower speed limits, vehicle improvements, and drunk driving declines, the New York Times recently reported that these deaths have been on the rise across the country during the Covid-19 pandemic. Experts were surprised; they had anticipated a decline due to largely empty roads. However, the pandemic increased frustration and anger, which in turn triggered aggressive driving, and this aggression continued later in the pandemic when more people began driving again.

According to analysis of federal data, per capita vehicle deaths rose 17.5% between the summer of 2019 to the summer of 2020, the largest two year increase since immediately following World War II. In one instance, a man was killed by a driver who had run a red light while he was crossing the street with his family after attending a holiday lights display.

A cognitive scientist commented to the Times that the aggressive behavior could be attributed to dissipation of angry energy by pressing harder on the accelerator. The Department of Transportation also reported that the proportion of drivers who tested positive for opioids doubled after mid-March in 2020 when mitigation of the pandemic started, and positive tests for marijuana increased by around 50%.

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Walk down any block in cities large or small, and you will inevitably see people walking across the street, into crosswalks, onto roadways, through parking lots with moving traffic, and along sidewalks, never looking up from their cell phones while they busily send a text or email. Worse, there have been ample examples on You tube of people walking into telephone poles, falling into Lake Michigan, falling onto train tracks, tripping on uneven areas of the sidewalk or into holes, into other pedestrians on the sidewalk, or in one heavily viewed video, a woman walks into the wall of a fountain in a mall, falling directly into the water while passersby look on.

At the University of Ohio in 2010, researcher Jack Nasar conducted a study of 1,500 pedestrians who suffered injuries while using their cell phones and who were treated at emergency rooms. The study showed that there were six times more injuries suffered by texting pedestrians than five years earlier. Nasar’s study included a teenager who fell into a ditch after he walked off of a bridge, and a 23 year old man who was hit by a car and suffered hip injuries when he walked into the street without paying attention.

Safe Kids Worldwide performed a survey this past October, noting that 40% of the 1,000 teens they interviewed admitted they had been struck by, or almost hit by a car while walking. Of those interviewed, 85% indicated that they were listening to music, texting, or on their cell phones when they were struck or almost hit. Dr. Barry Smith, director of the emergency medicine department at St. John’s Medical Center in Yonkers, noted that he sees many patients with orthopedic injuries suffered when they were walking and trip on the sidewalk, striking their heads or fracturing a limb. Obviously, the problems is greatly exacerbated when the pedestrian is focused on the music they are listening to, sending or reading a text or email, and not looking at what is in front of them.

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In an article last month in the New York Post, it was reported that fatal accidents and serious injuries suffered by pedestrians has become a significant problem, and NYC taxi drivers are often to blame. Early last month, 9 year old Cooper Stock was crossing the street while holding his father’s hand on the Upper West Side. They were struck by a cab driven by Koffi Komlani of Orange County, New York. Cooper was killed in the accident, his father Richard Stock suffered non life threatening injuries, and Komlani, who was making a left turn onto West End Avenue from 97th Street was cited for failure to yield to traffic, paid a fine, but was not criminally charged.

In the last five years, NYC cabdrivers have killed or seriously injured 21 pedestrians or bicyclists. However, unless there is evidence of intoxication or recklessness, generally no criminal charges are filed. Under the New York State Vehicle & Traffic Law, a driver is legally intoxicated if his or her BAC (blood alcohol concentration) is 0.08% or higher. Reckless driving is charged if the driver operated the motor vehicle in a manner which “interferes with the free and proper use of the public highway” or “unreasonably endangers users of the public highway.”

In the first two weeks of 2014, cars struck and killed seven pedestrians in New York City. Last April, cab driver Boubacar Bathily, 53, was charged with fleeing the scene of a personal injury fatal accident when he allegedly struck Taja Johnson at the intersection of West 133rd Street and Eighth Avenue. However, in other serious accidents over the last five years, including on November 9, 2011, when a cabdriver struck a bicyclist at the Hudson River Greenway near 43rd Street; April 14, 2012, in which a cabdriver fatally struck 5 year old Timothy Keith, in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn; and on February 27, 2013, when a cabdriver struck and dragged Amy Fass 40 feet on West 181st Street, no criminal charges were filed.

The same is true in non-fatal accidents, such as in August of 2013, when cabdriver Faysal Himon severed the foot of British tourist Siân Green in Rockefeller Center after he had been in a dispute with a bicyclist, and an accident in September of 2010, when Syed Nazir apparently rear ended a vehicle and then drove into a coffee shop in the East Village, breaking the leg of a 71 year old man.

In an effort to combat this spate of accidents involving pedestrians and bicyclists, newly elected NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced a program called “Vision Zero.” As part of this initiative, there will be an increase in the number of traffic officers, the installation of speed cameras, and the creation of a more highly trained collision investigation team to investigate and come up with solutions to the traffic fatality and serious injury problem in the City.

However, Captain Michael Falcon of the 20th Precinct has a different perspective on the large number of pedestrian accidents and attributes much of the blame to the pedestrians themselves: “You see people, they’re not paying attention…they’re looking at their phones…You see people with babies and there’s two seconds [on the countdown clock], and they’re going…it’s mind-boggling the things that people do.”

There is no question that with the proliferation of cell phones and the unlimited variety of uses that pedestrians use them for, this is a problem with multiple factors which clearly must be addressed, with both drivers and pedestrians paying more attention to what is in front of them.

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