Even though walking provides a stimulating and healthy way to take in the natural beauty and night life here in Charlotte, it doesn’t come without a degree of risk: our city experiences a motor vehicle accident involving a pedestrian more than once a day on average, according to figures released in a report last month by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
The report, which is part of a national NHTSA project on pedestrian safety using Charlotte as one of several sample cities, indicates that 375 pedestrian accidents occurred in Charlotte in 2008, the most recent year for which complete data was available. These crashes killed 12 pedestrians and injured 23, leading to a significant burden on the community. Based on estimates from the North Carolina Department of Transportation, pedestrian crashes cost the city more than 340 million dollars between 2004 and 2008.
Other notable findings from the report included the following:
- Nearly 30 percent of Charlotte pedestrian crashes between 2004 and 2008 involved pedestrians crossing, dashing, or darting out from behind other vehicles or objects, across roadways, and into the path of oncoming vehicles.
- Fall months accounted for the most pedestrian crashes in Charlotte (29 percent).
- Thursday was the highest crash day on average (16 percent) while Sunday was the lowest (11 percent).
The alarming rate of more than one pedestrian crash per day indicates that our city has some work to do in reducing these dangerous incidents. Fortunately, Mecklenburg County residents can take advantage of a few sensible steps for both drivers and pedestrians in order to keep safe and help reduce the pedestrian crash rate in and around Charlotte.
Safety Tips for Pedestrians
According to the NHTSA report, mid-block crashes — meaning incidents involving a pedestrian entering the roadway in the middle of a block rather than at a crosswalk or intersection — account for 40 percent of Charlotte’s pedestrian crashes, and these incidents are also usually more severe than other types of pedestrian accidents since the motorist isn’t likely to be slowing down for an intersection or turn.
To reduce these types of incidents, pedestrians need to focus on crossing the street at a designated crosswalk or intersection, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends in its guidelines for pedestrian safety. Even if another crossing point seems more convenient and relatively safe, try to imagine the eventual impact on your day of the few extra moments that you would spend making your way to the nearest intersection — then weigh those against the thousands of dollars in medical bills and months of recovery that you might have to go through if you’re involved in a motor vehicle crash as a pedestrian.
Besides the critical step of crossing only at designated intersections and crosswalks, the CDC also recommends that pedestrians:
- Increase their visibility at night by carrying a flashlight and wearing retro-reflective clothing.
- Walk on a sidewalk wherever possible. When a sidewalk isn’t available and the route can’t be avoided, pedestrians should walk on the shoulder and face traffic.
- Avoid distractions such as electronic devices that take your attention off the road.
Accident Prevention Steps for Drivers
Even though drivers aren’t likely to suffer severe injury during a crash between a motor vehicle and a person on the street, a pedestrian accident can certainly traumatize a driver and change their life for the worse. You can minimize the risk of a pedestrian accident turning your life upside-down by staying alert and following a few relatively simple safety tips:
- Watch out for children. Children tend to have less awareness of their surroundings and local traffic laws than adults, so they’re especially vulnerable to injury by a motor vehicle. As a driver, you should always remain cautious when traveling through school zones, parks, and playgrounds or past a stopped school bus.
- Slow down for crosswalks. Crosswalks aren’t just a safety measure to protect pedestrians — they also protect drivers by cutting down on jaywalking and creating a designated area where motorists can expect foot traffic. Drivers should respect this function by treating crosswalks with caution and giving pedestrians, especially those with disabilities or special needs, the right of way. When you approach a crosswalk, always slow down and scan both sides carefully, even if the crosswalk appears to be empty; joggers and bicyclists use crosswalks too, so just because you don’t see someone in or approaching the crosswalk doesn’t mean it will be empty for long. Lastly, remember to be especially vigilant while you’re turning through a crosswalk; traffic may be stopped to allow you to turn, but in North Carolina, pedestrian traffic always has the right-of-way in a crosswalk.
- Be careful and take your time when backing out of a driveway or parking space. Always check your mirrors when backing out, but don’t rely on them exclusively — turn around and actually look behind your car, being especially careful to watch out for smaller children who may not be visible through rearview mirrors.
- Be mindful of driving conditions. Wet weather always adds to a vehicle’s stopping distance, so make sure to adjust your speed accordingly. Otherwise, you may not be able to stop in time even if you spot a pedestrian in the roadway with what seems like ample time to react.
- Save the distractions for later. The dangers of distracted driving are well known, with many studies indicating that trying to text or talk on the phone while driving is more dangerous than operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated. While drivers should never text or email while driving, it is especially important to be vigilant when driving in areas with heavy pedestrian traffic or neighborhoods where there may be cars on the street and obstructed views. Remember that no text or email is worth causing an accident.
Contact Myers Law Firm if You’ve Been Injured in a Pedestrian Accident
Even the best safety tips can’t prevent every accident, especially if someone else acts in a negligent manner. If you are involved in a pedestrian accident in Charlotte, whether you were on foot or in a motor vehicle, your best course of action after receiving medical treatment is to contact an experienced personal injury attorney who can evaluate whether you might have a valid liability claim that could compensate you for your injuries.
If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident due to someone else’s negligence, Myers Law Firm is here to help. We represent injured victims through difficult times, and we’ll use our legal experience to fight and advocate relentlessly on your behalf until your case reaches a resolution.
Call our offices today at 888-376-2889 or fill out the contact form on our website to schedule your free consultation with the attorneys at Myers Law Firm. We will use this time to get to know you, learn about your case, and inform you about your legal options so you can go forward with confidence.
National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. (2016, June). Advancing pedestrian safety using education and enforcement in pedestrian focus cities and states: North Carolina. (Report No. DOT HS 812 286). Washington, DC: National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. Retrieved from http://www.nhtsa.gov/staticfiles/nti/pdf/812286-PromotingPedSafetyEdu-NC.pdf
Sharing the road with pedestrians. (n.d.). Esurance. Retrieved from https://www.esurance.com/info/car/sharing-the-road-with-pedestrians