A friend recently asked me about a pedestrian death in Huntsville. What happened in that accident? A pedestrian was crossing University Drive when struck and killed. Pedestrian accidents are increasingly common in busy areas, including University Drive and Governors Drive in Huntsville. These two busy Huntsville roads involve multiple lanes of traffic with few crosswalks.
Pedestrian injury cases are very, very difficult. Let me repeat that — Pedestrian cases in Alabama are very difficult. We routinely turndown cases involving pedestrian injuries. The difficulties are both legal and practical. Alabama law requires (with some limited exceptions) pedestrians to use the crosswalk and holds them negligent if they do not. In Alabama, if you are even partially negligent you cannot recover your damages. That’s a big legal hurdle.
Alabama law is much more car-friendly than pedestrian-friendly. From state-to-state pedestrian injury laws vary tremendously. Some states favor pedestrians. Some states favor cars. As you can imagine, the policy differences typically occur between states with large pedestrian urban centers versus those with more rural or suburban areas.
I’ve touched on Alabama pedestrian injury laws in earlier posts. Today, I want to talk about recent traffic research which shows an increasing number of serious pedestrian injuries and deaths across the United States. In Huntsville, our city leaders are working to create a more livable environment for pedestrians and cyclists. So, safety for people walking and biking is a front-burner issue. Here are three factors I believe are contributing to increasing pedestrian accidents:
Distracted And Rushed Drivers Put People At Risk
Distractions. Deadlines. The coronavirus and its shutdowns have given us all a pause. During this pause, we realize just how rushed our hectic daily lives had become.
We rush through our days trying to meet a busy schedule. A busy schedule of work and family activities. Add to that schedule — Driver Distractions. From cell phones to eating while driving, distracted driving is a huge safety issue. Many of the serious accident and injury cases our law firm handles involve drivers who crashed into other vehicles while distracted. While cell phones are the biggest cause of distraction, they are certainly not the only one. We regularly handle distracted driving accident cases on major roadways around northern Alabama.
Distractions and deadlines put drivers at risk. These issues present special dangers to pedestrians. When a driver is distracted, he or she may be partially observing the roadway. When a driver is distracted, he or she may divert their eyes from the roadway. Pedestrians are smaller and more difficult to see than cars and other large objects. Pedestrians may also be in areas not expected. When the distracted driver glances at the roadway, they may not even notice a pedestrian among all the larger objects around them.
Many distracted drivers also try to anticipate traffic while looking at their phones. But, they may not expect that pedestrian who suddenly appears in front of their vehicle.
Trucks And SUVs Cause Greater Injury
In recent decades, our vehicles have become larger. Trucks and SUVs are the best-selling vehicles in the United States. How do these larger trucks and SUVs impact pedestrians?
Think about the size and shape of vehicle fronts. Cars usually sit lower to the ground. Cars usually have a sloped front instead of a larger, flat front. Trucks and SUVs typically sit higher. And, they often have larger, flatter fronts. Why is this important?
When smaller cars strike pedestrians, the impact is typically lower. And, the pedestrian may go on to the top of the vehicle. Trucks and SUVs often strike pedestrians at key higher areas, where many vital organs are located. The impact is more forceful and more centered. Because of their size and shape, trucks and SUVs put pedestrians in a much greater danger of fatal accidents and injuries.
Cities And Communities Fail To Plan
Growth and Planning! Many Alabama communities are working to create a balance of cars, pedestrians and cyclists. It’s a shift largely necessitated by growth — Growth of living spaces within the city as opposed to far-flung suburbs. But, our suburbs are also planning for more recreational space that can be used by walkers and cyclists in and around traffic. Last year, I wrote an article about the growing problem of pedestrian injuries and the planning needed to reduce the risk. You can read my earlier article here: Pedestrian Injuries — A Growing Problem. In my earlier post, I discuss how communities like Huntsville and Tuscaloosa are paving the way with planning. Some communities are creating long-range plans to incorporate safe travel for cyclists, pedestrians and drivers in the same area. When cities fail to consider pedestrians and cyclists, they expose people to the danger of fast-moving cars around them.
The City of Huntsville publishes a blog discussing planning and living in our community. It has some interesting articles, including several on the City’s efforts to plan and incorporate safe pedestrian travel. In one recent post discussing pedestrian planning, the City asks What Makes A Healthy City?
While communities like Huntsville are actively planning for safe pedestrian travel, some other communities are not. This failure to plan and incorporate safety contributes to the increasing number of pedestrian accidents and injuries across the United States.
From its office in Huntsville, the Blackwell Law Firm represents people across Alabama who have suffered serious accidents and injuries. We are happy to answer your questions. Consultations are always free and confidential.