Although pedestrians have every right to use the roadways in California alongside school buses, delivery trucks, and eighteen-wheelers, they are no match for any motor vehicle in a crash. The impact of a motor vehicle can cause life-threatening injuries to an unprotected human body.
After a pedestrian accident, a common excuse offered by drivers is that they did not see the pedestrian. Drivers are expected to be on the lookout for pedestrians – especially in places they are likely to be. Driver distraction is one factor contributing to the increasing number of fatal pedestrian accidents.
Proudly serving Apple Valley and surrounding communities, the Law Office of Joshua Moody represents persons who were injured as pedestrians on the roadways throughout the High Desert area. For help obtaining recovery after a pedestrian accident, contact the Law Office of Joshua Moody.
Pedestrian Accidents in the United States
The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) reported there were nearly 7,500 pedestrians struck and killed by motor vehicles in 2021 – the highest single-year traffic-related pedestrian death total in four decades.
The percentage of traffic deaths involving pedestrians has been steadily increasing in relation to all types of traffic fatalities. Between 2010 and 2020, pedestrian traffic deaths rose by 54%, while all other traffic-related deaths rose by 13%.
Pedestrian deaths associated with vehicle speed have been increasing in recent years. Vehicle speed has a significant influence on the severity of pedestrian injuries. The faster a vehicle is going at impact, the more likely a pedestrian’s injuries will be life-threatening. A pedestrian hit by a vehicle going 23 mph has a 10% chance of being killed. The risk of death goes to 90% when a motorist is going 58 mph.
Most fatal pedestrian accidents involve passenger cars, but the percentage of fatal pedestrian accidents involving SUVs is growing. An SUV is generally bigger and heavier than a passenger car and is capable of doing more damage.
The following facts are also true of fatal pedestrian accidents with motor vehicles:
- Pedestrian fatalities are almost 4 times more likely to occur at night.
- Pedestrians are more likely to be killed on roadways without sidewalks.
- More than 75% of pedestrian fatalities occur away from intersections.
- The majority of pedestrian fatalities occur on non-freeway arterial roads.
Pedestrian Accidents in California
According to the most recent Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SITRS) report issued by the California Highway Patrol, there were more than 12,700 pedestrians injured and 950 pedestrians killed by motorists in 2019.
Male pedestrians were killed at least twice as often as female pedestrians in almost every age group. Male pedestrians were also injured more often than female pedestrians. Passenger cars were responsible for 73% of all pedestrian injuries and fatalities.
Crossing the roadway is the most dangerous action for pedestrians in California. Over 80% of pedestrian injuries and fatalities occur while crossing the roadway, with 62% occurring in a crosswalk at an intersection.
Striking a pedestrian with a motor vehicle is the most common type of hit-and-run accident. Spring months see fewer pedestrian fatalities, and winter months statistically produce more. Pedestrians between the ages of 45 and 64 are the group most likely to be killed by a motor vehicle.
California Laws that Apply to Pedestrians and Motorists
While a good rule of thumb may be for drivers to always give pedestrians the right-of-way, the law does place some responsibility on pedestrians to protect themselves when traveling on or across a roadway.
Drivers are required to yield to pedestrians in marked or unmarked crosswalks. A driver is not allowed to overtake another vehicle that has stopped at a crosswalk for a pedestrian. Even so, pedestrians must take reasonable precautions to ensure their safety and may not step into a roadway or begin to cross when a vehicle is too close to avoid an accident.
When walking on a roadway outside a business or residential district, a pedestrian must walk as closely as possible to the pedestrian’s left-hand edge of the road. A pedestrian can walk along the pedestrian’s right-hand edge if it is unsafe to cross to the opposite side.
In all traffic encounters that do not involve crosswalks, pedestrians must yield to vehicles near enough to pose an immediate hazard. This does not relieve drivers from the responsibility to exercise reasonable care for the safety of pedestrians on the roadway.
Pedestrians may not interfere with or unreasonably delay the flow of traffic. Pedestrians are not allowed to stand in a roadway for the purpose of soliciting a ride. Pedestrians may be prohibited from using certain freeways or expressways if the roadways do not have pedestrian facilities, and using them would pose risks to pedestrians.
Change in California Jaywalking Law Could Mean More Pedestrian Accidents
Prior to January 1, 2023, pedestrians were prohibited from crossing a roadway between adjacent controlled intersections outside of a crosswalk whether or not a car was in sight. A change in the law now allows pedestrians to ‘jaywalk’ when it is safe to do so.
Technically, the prohibition against jaywalking is still on the books, but police may only cite a pedestrian for jaywalking if it is considered an unsafe jaywalk. An unsafe jaywalk will be measured against what a reasonable person would do under similar circumstances. If a reasonable person would not have crossed the roadway because of the immediate danger of colliding with a moving vehicle, then jaywalking is still a traffic offense.
The change in law means drivers must now be even more attentive to the possibility of a pedestrian crossing a road at any point. Pedestrians cannot assume that drivers will expect them to jaywalk and will need to use extra caution when crossing a roadway outside a crosswalk between intersections.
Circumstances that Increase the Chance of Pedestrian Accidents
Accidents between pedestrians and motor vehicles are becoming more frequent. Statistics tell us that pedestrian accidents are more likely to occur when drivers don’t see or expect pedestrians, and pedestrians may not fully appreciate the danger of being on the roadway.
Walking at Night
Walking at night poses a significant risk to pedestrians because visibility by motorists can be difficult due to lighting or weather conditions. Pedestrians who walk at night increase their likelihood of being killed by about 400%.
Pedestrians who may be walking too far into the roadway and wearing dark clothing are especially vulnerable to a motorist traveling 50-60 mph.
Arguably, people seem generally more distracted these days. Portable electronic devices go everywhere, and they steal a lot of attention. This can be a problem for both drivers and pedestrians. Drivers in California are not allowed to use handheld electronic devices while driving – although they are allowed to use devices hands-free, which can still cause some distraction.
Pedestrians are not specifically prohibited from walking while engrossed in their cell phones. Still, they are responsible for doing their part to stay safe on the road, and that means paying attention to traffic – especially when attempting to cross a road.
According to the National Safety Council (NSC), alcohol is involved in fatal pedestrian accidents on public roadways about 40% of the time. The statistics show pedestrians are more likely than vehicle drivers to be alcohol-impaired when a crash occurs.
Alcohol impairment may have something to do with why some pedestrians are walking at night, which is when the greatest number of pedestrian fatalities occurs. Alcohol use found in fatal pedestrian accidents in 2020 broke down as follows:
- Pedestrian alcohol-impaired – 25%
- Driver alcohol-impaired – 10%
- Both pedestrian and driver alcohol-impaired 6%
Fatal Pedestrian Accidents in Apple Valley
Fatal pedestrian accidents in Apple Valley are occurring all too frequently. In February of 2022, the Victorville Daily Press reported that a pedestrian struck and killed on Rancherias Road was the 6th pedestrian fatality in Apple Valley in 4 months. A recent pedestrian fatality in Apple Valley illustrates some of the risk factors that increase the probability of accidents.
In March of 2023, a pedestrian was struck and killed by an SUV on Highway 18. The accident occurred at 12:23 a.m. between the intersections of Symeron Road and Rancherias Road. The pedestrian had been walking in the #2 lane of the highway when he was hit by the SUV traveling in the same direction.
The risk factors making this accident more likely include that the pedestrian was walking late at night in the dark when visibility was poor. He was walking on a highway where very large vehicles may be traveling up to 60 mph. He was not on the side of the road but walking at least somewhat in a lane of travel, which suggests there might have been substance impairment since his actions are unreasonable given the circumstances.
No matter who is at fault, pedestrian accidents can end tragically for everyone involved. Because pedestrians are so vulnerable to injury when hit by vehicles, they cannot afford to underestimate the risk of being on the roadway at any given time.
Who Can Make a Claim When a Pedestrian is Killed in a Car Accident?
The unfortunate reality is that many times the injuries received in a pedestrian accident are so severe they are not survivable. When a pedestrian dies as a result of their injuries, the surviving family members may have the right to recover compensation from any motorists responsible for causing the accident.
A wrongful death action is primarily for the benefit of the deceased pedestrian’s surviving spouse or partner, children, and grandchildren. Compensation can be awarded for economic losses as well as the lost ability to enjoy the companionship and support of the deceased family member.
What Happens When a Pedestrian is at Fault for an Accident
Pedestrians have a legal responsibility to act reasonably regarding their safety as they move with traffic. Pedestrians who fail to use reasonable care to protect themselves may have some fault for causing an accident.
An injured pedestrian may still be entitled to compensation even if they contributed to the circumstances that caused an accident. California is a pure comparative fault state. As long as the party seeking compensation is not 100% at fault, they can recover a portion of their damages equal to the percentage of fault attributed to others.
Because fault proportionately reduces the compensation that can be recovered, it is important for an injured pedestrian to make a strong argument against liability when fault is an issue. An experienced pedestrian accident attorney can help a pedestrian receive more compensation by minimizing or eliminating a client’s fault for an accident.
How to Avoid Pedestrian Accidents
Concerned with the growing incidence of pedestrians being seriously injured or killed on the roadways, the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) offers the following tips for pedestrians to help reduce pedestrian accidents.
- Follow the rules of the road and obey traffic signs and signals
- Make yourself visible – wear bright or reflective clothing and carry a light at night
- Always walk on the sidewalk where available – if there is no sidewalk, walk as far to the side of the road as possible while facing traffic
- Always cross streets at crosswalks or intersections when possible
- Don’t assume drivers can see you – try to make eye contact in potentially dangerous situations
- Don’t walk and text or try to watch content on your phone – pay attention to your surroundings
- When crossing a road, stop and look left, then right, and then left again – make sure it’s clear
Where to Get Help After Being Injured in a Pedestrian Accident in Southern California
Whether you were injured as a pedestrian or you are a family member of a pedestrian who lost their life in an accident, you may have a right to recover compensation for the damage. Getting advice from someone who knows the laws and the legal system will provide guidance as to the next steps.
You don’t want to hire just any lawyer to handle your pedestrian accident claim. You want the right lawyer. In San Bernardino County, contact a pedestrian accident attorney at the Law Office of Joshua Moody for a free consultation.