Bicycling and walking are among the healthiest and most environmentally friendly ways to get around. These activities do come with certain risks, though — and in North Carolina, those risks are higher than almost anywhere else.
According to data from the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s (NCDOT’s) Watch for Me NC pedestrian and cyclist safety program, vehicles in North Carolina hit more than 3,000 pedestrians and 850 bicyclists every year, making North Carolina one of the least safe states for walking and cycling.
Even more alarming is the fatality rate for these crashes: approximately 160 pedestrians and 20 bicyclists die in statewide traffic crashes each year. This figure represents roughly 15 percent of all traffic deaths in the state.
The populations in cities around the state such as Charlotte, Raleigh, and Asheville continue to grow rapidly, which is one factor fueling the rise in injuries and deaths. Public officials and law enforcement personnel say they’re striving to reduce the rates of pedestrian crashes and encourage walkable and bike-friendly communities. To accomplish this, though, officials say they need help from drivers and pedestrians alike.
“Pedestrian and bicycle safety is more important than ever before,” Danny Pleasant, director of Charlotte Department of Transportation, told the Charlotte Observer last year. “The bottom line is, everyone needs to be involved. Everyone needs to look out for one another.”
Drivers: Know the Risk Factors for a Pedestrian or Cyclist Crash
If you’re a driver in North Carolina, it’s important to share the road safely and avoid the major driver behaviors that put pedestrians and cyclists at risk. Collisions involving pedestrians often involve distracted driving, intoxicating substances, or speeding, and bicycle accidents often happen due to negligent driver actions, like opening a car door in a rider’s path.
- A pedestrian who gets hit by a car at 40 mph has only a 15 percent chance of surviving the crash. Driving slower in areas with foot traffic can significantly reduce the risk for a fatal accident.
- Seasons do not discriminate — pedestrian and cyclist crashes occur year around.
- More than half of vehicle-pedestrian crashes occur near bus stops or on bus route roads.
- 25 percent of bicyclist and pedestrian accidents occur while a vehicle is turning.
- Approximately 76 percent of accidents involving cyclists and pedestrians occur during the week. These crashes often happen during the rush hour commutes in the morning and early evening.
Pedestrians and Cyclists: Know the Risk Factors for a Crash
As a cyclist or pedestrian, you’re trusting that vehicle operators are obeying the law, being responsive to traffic signals and signs, and looking out for their surroundings. Unfortunately, you can’t control drivers’ behavior or keep them from exercising poor judgment, but you can lower your risk for a crash by raising your alertness levels and taking certain precautions.
Make yourself visible when you ride a bike.
- Attach a reflector to your bike or a personal item, or wear a bright and reflective vest or shirt.
- Make sure you’re visible at crosswalks by avoiding large objects, signs, or trees.
- Carry a flashlight and attach both front and rear lights to your bike.
Stay alert and obey the law.
- Always cross at crosswalks when walking and ride in bike lanes (if provided) when cycling.
- If there is no sidewalk, walking pedestrians should walk against traffic. If there are no bike lanes, bicyclists should ride with traffic and use proper hand signals.
- Even at a signaled crosswalk, look at drivers and make eye contact if possible before crossing the road.
- Watch out for turning vehicles at intersections and vehicles backing up in parking lots.
- Don’t let yourself get distracted when you walk or bike — avoid headphones and put your cell phone away.
- Avoid unlit roads and crosswalks at night.
- Don’t ride a bicycle intoxicated, and avoid walking long distances after drinking.
For additional educational tips and resources, visit the official website of Watch for Me NC.
What to Do If an Accident Occurs
If you’re involved in a traffic accident in North Carolina, you should always take several important steps, regardless of your role in the crash (driver, pedestrian, cyclist, or witness).
- Assess the situation and remove yourself from danger if possible.
- Call for emergency medical help if a serious injury occurred.
- Document the entire scene with photos, video, and written notes. Take down details about conditions at the scene, damage to property and vehicles, injuries, and any other factors that may have played a role in or resulted from the crash.
- File an accident report with the police department.
- Collect data from all parties, including names, phone numbers, and insurance information.
- Never admit or imply fault. Leave it to the authorities to decide who was at fault for the accident.
- Contact your insurance agency.
For more tips that can help you after an accident, read our previous blog article on this subject.
Finally, if you’ve been injured in a crash in a North Carolina, you should contact an experienced personal injury lawyer who can investigate your accident, deal with the insurance companies, and make sure your rights are protected.
Injured in an Accident? Contact Myers Law Firm Today
If you’ve suffered injuries due to someone else’s negligent behavior while walking or cycling in North Carolina, the team at Myers Law Firm may be able to help you receive compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. We are committed to advocating for the rights and safety of pedestrians and bicyclists in North Carolina, and we work to provide fair and aggressive legal representation that puts your needs above any other concern.
To schedule your free consultation today and speak with an attorney at no risk to you, fill out our convenient online contact form or call our offices at 888-376-2889.
Crash facts. (n.d.). Watch for Me NC. Retrieved from http://www.watchformenc.org/crashfacts/
Safety Tips for Pedestrians. (n.d.) Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center. Retrieved from http://www.pedbikeinfo.org/community/tips_pedestrian.cfm
Stone, A. (2016, July 14). Safety program aims to reduce Charlotte’s rising pedestrian, cyclist deaths. The Charlotte Observer. Retrieved from http://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/local/article89680127.html
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.