Though winter hasn't officially started, signs of its impending arrival are all around us. Many areas of our state have already seen snow, the days are shorter and the long nights are much cooler. In addition to snowflakes, colder temperatures and the cheery holiday season, this time of year brings something much less pleasant to New York and many other areas of the country: a higher rate of pedestrian accidents.
New York has the dubious distinction of already having one of the highest pedestrian accident rates in America (tied with California, Texas and Florida). With the recent end of daylight savings time, car-versus-pedestrian accidents have increased around here and the nation. This is due, of course, to the fact that it is now dark an hour earlier. Your commute a few weeks ago might have brought you home before sunset, while now it is fully dark when you get there.
Many people - drivers and pedestrians alike - take some time to adjust to the return of longer nights and its impact on their daily schedule. It is that adjustment that causes an increase in accidents.
Drivers obviously have a much better chance of walking away from a pedestrian accident uninjured. Data provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that there are about 5,000 pedestrian fatalities and nearly 80,000 injuries each year in pedestrian accidents. Pedestrians involved in accidents are 10 times more likely to be killed or suffer catastrophic injuries (spinal cord injuries, paralysis or traumatic brain injuries) than the drivers involved.
That being said, there are actions that both drivers and pedestrians can take to lessen their chances of being involved in an accident any time during the year.
It is vitally important that drivers take responsibility for their actions, remain vigilant and recognize that a minor slip on their part could have consequences far outside of getting a ticket or being in a fender-bender. Negligent or reckless driving can easily kill a pedestrian. Drivers, particularly those in areas of high foot traffic (shopping malls, transit stations, etc.) and those where children are present (schools, parks, residential areas where children play), can take precautions to lessen the chances that they will strike a pedestrian, including:
- Obeying the speed limit
- Obeying traffic lights and stop signs
- Using turn signals
- Slowing down near marked crosswalks
- Looking carefully before pulling out of a parking space or backing out of a driveway (to ensure that no one is walking behind them)
- Putting your car in park when stopped at or near busy pedestrian crosswalks (to protect against the possibility that your foot might slip off the brake pedal, causing you to strike a pedestrian).
Pedestrians can also take responsibility for their own safety. By following basic precautions, they can lessen the chances that they will be involved in a car-versus-pedestrian accident. Responsible pedestrians will:
- Wear reflective clothing, or carry a purse/backpack with reflective tape on it
- Carry a small flashlight or small blinking light (that alerts drivers to their presence after dark)
- Only cross at marked intersections
- Obey "walk" and "don't walk" signs at intersections
- Not cross the street with a stereo headset on, while using a cell phone or tablet, or while texting
No matter how prepared individuals are, accidents do sometimes happen. If you or a loved one has been hurt in a pedestrian accident, you may have the right to recover compensation for the damages you have incurred. An experienced New York personal injury attorney can help you determine if you might be eligible to seek compensation from the person responsible for your injuries; arrange a consultation soon after the accident to avoid jeopardizing your legal rights.