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Preventing Pedestrian Accidents: Some Common Sense Rules

There are perhaps no easier accidents to avoid than those which result in a motor vehicle striking a pedestrian. Unfortunately, however, they are occurring at an increasingly alarming rate, both nationwide and here in Florida. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ("NHTSA") reported 6,238 pedestrian deaths in 2018. Preliminary data received by the Governor's Highway Safety Association("GHSA") projected that number to rise to 6,590 in 2019.

In our earliest memories, most of us can recall the care our parents took in warning us of the dangers that moving automobiles posed. They gave us common sense rules to follow ("look both ways before crossing", "obey traffic signals", always use the crosswalk") and instilled more than a little fear of what would happen should they be ignored. With growing populations and an ever increasing number of automobiles on every type of roadway, those common sense rules have become all the more important.

A number of common factors have been found to be responsible for the increase in pedestrian accidents. First, approximately 75% of all accidents occur after dark. Secondly, the majority occur at mid-block locations. Lastly, the use of alcohol by either the driver or pedestrian has been shown to be a significant factor behind these accidents. Based upon this research, and the common sense our parents stressed to us when we were growing up, the NHTSA has compiled a list of basic safety tips for both pedestrians and drivers to follow to hopefully reduce these often tragic, yet avoidable incidents:

For Pedestrians: 10 Walking Safety Tips

1. Be predictable. Follow the rules of the road and obey signs and signals.

2. Walk on sidewalks whenever they are available.

3. If there is no sidewalk, walk facing traffic and as far from traffic as possible.

4. Keep alert at all times; don't be distracted by electronic devices that take your eyes and ears off the road.

5. Whenever possible, cross streets at crosswalks or intersections - where drivers expect pedestrians; look for cars in all directions, including those turning left or right.

6. If a crosswalk or intersection is not available, locate a well-lit area where you have the best view of traffic. Wait for a gap in traffic that allows enough time to cross safely; continue watching for traffic as you cross.

7. Never assume a driver sees you. Make eye contact with drivers as they approach to make sure you are seen.

8. Be visible at all times. Wear bright clothing during the day, and wear reflective materials or use a flashlight at night.

9. Watch for cars entering or exiting driveways or backing up in parking lots.

10.Avoid alcohol and drugs when walking; they impair your abilities and your judgment.

For Drivers : 9 Driving Safety Tips:

1. Look out for pedestrians everywhere, at all times. Safety is a shared responsibility.

2. Use extra caution when driving in hard-to-see conditions, such as nighttime or bad weather.

3. Slow down and be prepared to stop when turning or otherwise entering a crosswalk.

4. Yield to pedestrians in crosswalks and stop well back from the crosswalk to give other vehicles an opportunity to see the crossing pedestrians so they can stop too.

5. Never pass vehicles stopped at a crosswalk. There may be people crossing that you can't see.

6. Never drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

7. Follow the speed limit, especially around people on the street.

8. Follow slower speed limits in school zones and neighborhoods where children are located.

9. Be extra-cautious when backing up- pedestrians can move into your path.

In response to the increase in pedestrian accidents (a statistic in which Florida is unfortunately near the top of the national list), the State of Florida has taken a number of steps to both identify the reasons and reduce such accidents. Florida has instituted a "High Visibility Enforcement Campaign" which focuses on both education and enforcement. Data has been compiled in a geographic information system in an effort to identify areas of increased pedestrian accidents. Secondly, the State has begun a $100 million lighting initiative to construct high-profile crosswalks and improved pedestrian lighting to targeted intersections.

Unfortunately, the effects of this focus on troubled areas and increased government spending will be minimized if citizens do not follow the common sense safety tips set out above and embodied in the wisdom of the previous generation. Should you or a loved one become injured while a pedestrian, there are specific issues and evidence gathering that will be crucial to the recovery of damages from the responsible party. Please contact or office at 727-822-3700 should you have any questions.

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