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Pedestrian Safety: What You Need To Know

October 5, 2020 by Steven M. Gursten

Pedestrian Safety

Pedestrian safety is crucial for drivers and for those traveling by foot. To improve safety, drivers must eliminate behaviors such as distracted driving, drinking and driving and speeding. People walking must cross at intersections, avoid drinking and walking, distracted walking and be extra careful after 6pm.

The need for improved safety is seen in the ever-increasing numbers of people traveling by foot who have been injured and killed in motor vehicle crashes nationwide.

To bring attention to this urgent public safety crisis, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Governors Highway Safety Association announced on September 29, 2020, that October was being designated as “National Pedestrian Safety Month.” October was chosen because October is historically the most dangerous month for those traveling by foot.

To learn about a pedestrian’s legal rights after being injured in a car accident, please check out our blog post, “Car Accidents With Pedestrians: How the New Michigan No-Fault Law Affects Them.”

Pedestrian safety for Michigan

The outlook for pedestrian safety in Michigan has improved over the last five years as we have seen decreases in the numbers of injuries and fatalities for walkers who were involved in car crashes :

  • Pedestrian-involved motor vehicle crashes: Dropped from 2,354 in 2015 to 2,260 in 2019
  • Pedestrians involved in pedestrian-involved motor vehicle crashes: Dropped from 2,482 in 2015 to 2,403 in 2019
  • Pedestrians injured in pedestrian-involved motor vehicle crashes: Dropped from 2,041 in 2015 to 1,910 in 2019
  • Pedestrians killed in pedestrian-involved motor vehicle crashes: Dropped from 170 in 2015 to 149 in 2019

Pedestrian safety – U.S.

Unfortunately, the national outlook for pedestrian safety has not been improving. The number of people traveling by foot killed and injured in motor vehicle traffic crashes on U.S. roadways increased 3.4% and 5.4%, respectively, between 2017 and 2018.

Nationwide, in 2018, there were 6,283 pedestrians killed in car crashes, which was up from 6,075 in 2017. This was also the highest number of pedestrian fatalities since 1990.

There were also approximately 75,000 pedestrians injured in car crashes across the U.S. in 2018, up from 71,000 in 2017.

Overall, pedestrians accounted for 17% of all fatalities from motor vehicle crashes in 2018. That is up from 12% in 2009.

Pedestrian safety tips for drivers

Drivers should follow these pedestrian safety tips to keep them safe:

  • Be vigilant about watching for people walking
  • No distractions – no texting or talking on the phone while you are driving
  • No drinking and driving: In 2019, 36.2% of the people killed in pedestrian-involved motor vehicle crashes were the result of an alcohol-involved crash, up from 30% in 2015. Nationally, in 2018, 20% of the total number of drivers involved in fatal pedestrian-involved motor vehicle crashes had been drinking. 16% of the total number of drivers who were involved in fatal pedestrian crashes had a BAC of 0.08 g/dL or higher.
  • Stop before entering the crosswalk if you and the traffic traveling in your direction has a “steady yellow indication” or a “steady red indication” (MCL 257.612(1)(b) and (c))
  • Yield for people who are lawfully within the crosswalk because they have the right of way (MCL 257.612(1))
  • Make sure you slow down – enough so that you can stop quickly if necessary – as you enter or turn through a crosswalk
  • Stop far enough back from a crosswalk so that other drivers can see if and when people are crossing.
  • Do not pass cars, trucks, motorcycles that have stopped at a crosswalk because they may have stopped to allow a person to cross the street
  • Be extra cautious when the driving conditions are less than optimal for seeing people walking, such as at nighttime or dusk or when it is raining or snowing
  • Be extra cautious and aware in areas where children are likely to be, such as school zones and in residential neighborhoods
  • No speeding or aggressive driving
  • Do not drive when you are tired, sleepy or drowsy
  • Watch for people when you are backing up

Distracted walking

Yes, there actually is such a thing as distracted walking, and you’ve likely seen it if you’re walking on a street and see people walking while looking at their cell phones. Distracted walking is a significant contributing factor to many of the injuries and deaths caused by pedestrian-involved car crashes. The National Safety Council says that distracted walking incidents are increasing.

Pedestrian safety tips for people traveling by foot

Here are some pedestrian safety tips for those who are traveling by foot can follow to keep themselves safe:

  • Cross at intersections and don’t jaywalk: From 2015 to 2019, the number of walkers killed in pedestrian-involved car accidents in Michigan who were “not crossing at an intersection” increased from 32.4% to 34%. Nationally, in 2018, 74% of fatalities for people walking “occurred at locations that were not intersections.”
  • Be careful between 6 pm and 7 pm: From 2015 to 2019, the time period of the day with the most pedestrian-involved motor vehicle crashes in Michigan was 6:00-6:59 PM. In 2015, 5:00 pm to 5:59 pm was also a time period in Michigan with the highest number pedestrian crashes. Nationally, in 2018, the time of day with the most pedestrian fatalities was from 6 to 8:59 p.m.
  • Be careful on Fridays: From 2015 to 2019, Friday was the deadliest day for pedestrians. It consistently had the most fatal pedestrian-involved motor vehicle crashes and it consistently had the most people killed in pedestrian-involved motor vehicle crashes.
  • No drinking and walking: In 2019, 27.5% of the pedestrians killed in pedestrian-involved motor vehicle crashes had been drinking, up from 21.7% in 2015. Nationally, in 2018, 38% of the total number of people killed in pedestrian-involved crashes had been drinking. 33% of the total number of people killed had a BAC of 0.08 g/dL or higher.
  • No distractions – no distracted walking
  • Wear bright or reflective clothing to make sure you can easily be seen
  • Be extra alert at night
  • Do not assume drivers can see you
  • Use a flashlight if you are walking at night
  • Walk on sidewalks – not in the road – whenever sidewalks are provided (MCL 257.655(1))
  • Walk on the side of the road facing the traffic if you must walk in the road because sidewalks are not provided (MCL 257.655(1))
  • Obey traffic signals
  • Always make eye contact with drivers before entering the street
  • Watch for cars entering or exiting driveways, or backing up in parking lots

Need help? Call Michigan Auto Law

If you were walking and hit by a car and need help you can call toll free (800) 777-0028 for a free consultation. You can also get help by emailing [email protected] or you can use the chat feature on our Michigan Auto Law website.

(Sources: NHTSA, Traffic Safety Facts-Research Note, “2018 Fatal Motor Vehicle Crashes: Overview,” published October 2019; NHTSA, Traffic Safety Facts, Pedestrians, 2018 Data, published March 2020); Michigan Traffic Crash Facts, Statewide Reports, Vehicle/Driver, “Michigan Pedestrian Crashes” (2015 and 2019); NHTSA, Pedestrian Safety, “How Pedestrians Can Walk Safely” website page; NHTSA, Road Safety, “Pedestrian Safety” website page; Michigan Traffic Crash Facts, “Pedestrians” Fact Sheet (2015 and 2019))

Pedestrian Safety: What You Need To Know

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