WHY ARE PEDESTRIAN DEATHS AND INJURIES INCREASING IN VA?
Virginia has seen a major spike in pedestrian accident fatalities in recent years. In 2018, there were 123 pedestrians killed in traffic-related accidents, the highest number in a decade, and the third consecutive year that the number of fatalities was over 100. Hundreds more were seriously injured, leaving themselves and their families with the prospect of living with a long-term, debilitating condition.
2019 was no better. At least 112 pedestrians had been killed as of mid-December of last year, and again, hundreds more were left in serious condition because of a traffic-related crash. Although the final numbers may show a small drop from 2018, the pedestrian fatality rate remains at or near record highs.
Virginia is not the only place where pedestrian deaths are on the rise. Last year, the Governors Highway Safety Administration (GHSA) reported that 6,227 pedestrians were killed in 2018, the highest since 1990. This marked a 3.4% increase from 2017, and an astonishing 35% increase over 2008, just a decade earlier.
What is Driving the Increase in Pedestrian Accident Fatalities?
There are several trends and factors that are said to be contributing to the rising number of pedestrian deaths both in Virginia and nationally:
More Foot Traffic
One major reason for the increase in pedestrian accidents is that there is more pedestrian traffic than ever before. Part of this is due to the population increase, and part of this is because people are more health and environmentally conscious. This has resulted in a rising number of individuals who choose to walk to and from work or at least to and from public transportation stops. This has led to an increase in bicycle traffic as well. Local governments have also responded to this demand by creating more walking and biking paths to allow people to more easily get to and from their jobs.
More Pedestrians Walking at Night
With the increase in overall foot traffic, we have also seen more pedestrians that walk at night. Over the past 10 years, nighttime crashes have accounted for more than 90% of the increase in pedestrian deaths. Many of these deaths occur on local roads and away from intersections, and they often happen because pedestrians do not have a sidewalk or even a shoulder on the side of the road where they can walk safely.
More Driver and Pedestrian Distractions
Distractions are clearly one of the major factors that are contributing to the rise in pedestrian accident fatalities. In 2007, Apple released its first iPhone. This helped usher in the age of smartphones, and today, the majority of consumers have them. While smartphones provide us with a lot of benefits, they can also be a major distraction for both drivers and pedestrians.
Texting while driving and other types of electronic activity on a smartphone distract drivers visually, manually, and cognitively. This greatly increases the likelihood of missing important things that happen on the road, such as a pedestrian crossing in front of them. Smartphones can also distract pedestrians, causing them to become far too focused on their phones and not see vehicles or other hazards (such as potholes and cracks in the pavement) that may be in front of them.
Sharp Increase in Larger Vehicles on the Road
Over the past several years, fuel prices have dropped, and in most parts of the country, they have remained under $3 per gallon or even $2.50 per gallon most of the time. America is now the number one producer of oil and natural gas, and this means fuel prices are likely to remain stable for the foreseeable future.
One of the effects of prices being this low is that consumers are less concerned about them, resulting in more car owners purchasing larger vehicles. SUVs are now America’s favorite type of vehicle, accounting for approximately 40% of all vehicle sales in 2018. Many experts believe this figure could top 50% by the end of this year. The growing number of larger vehicles on the road presents a major hazard to pedestrians. Large vehicles are more difficult to control and more likely to be involved in a collision, and when a pedestrian is hit by one, they are more likely to be killed or seriously injured.
Injured in a Pedestrian Accident in Virginia? Speak with an Experienced Motor Vehicle Accident Lawyer
Pedestrian accidents can result in some of the most serious and catastrophic injuries. If you or someone close to you was injured in a traffic-related accident that was caused by another party’s negligence or recklessness, you may have a right to damages. It is important to act fast, however, because the longer you wait, the more difficult it will be to secure the full and fair compensation you deserve.
If the accident happened in Virginia, contact Schilling and Esposito for assistance. Message us online or call our office today at 804-320-0950 to schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys. We will meet with you to thoroughly assess your case and advise you of your legal rights and options.