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Pedestrians 14 percent of motor vehicle crash deaths: safety tips for walkers and drivers alike

The next time you go to the movies, think about how you got there. 

You probably drove. On your way, you may have witnessed someone crossing a street, jogging, or even walking to the same cinema. 

As you settle into your seat, consider these facts: 

--In less than the time it takes to watch the movie previews, a pedestrian will be injured somewhere in the United States: one every eight minutes.

--By the time the credits roll on your movie, a pedestrian will be killed in a traffic crash: one every two hours in America. 

In 2013, 4,735 pedestrians were killed and an estimated 66,000 injured in traffic crashes in the United States, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (Injuries likely are underreported, however, because they don’t include crashes on private property, such as parking lots and driveways.)

These statistics are enough to induce a jump scare to rival any horror movie you’ve ever seen. They also underscore the importance of drivers and pedestrians alike paying more attention to safety. 

Other key findings from the 2013 data:

  • Alcohol involvement – for the driver and/or pedestrian – was reported in 49 percent of fatal pedestrian crashes.
  • Fatal pedestrian crashes most often involved male victims and occurred in an urban area, at a non-intersection, in the dark.
  • One-fifth of pedestrians killed involved hit-and-run drivers.
  • In Pennsylvania, the 1,208 traffic fatalities included 147 pedestrians; the rate of 1.12 per 100,000 population was below the national average. 

The good news is that pedestrian motor vehicle crash deaths have dropped sharply since 1975, according to the the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, probably because fewer people are walking. The bad news is they still represent 14 percent of crash deaths.

Who’s Responsible

Studies have found that pedestrians typically are more responsible than drivers for pedestrian crashes, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

“In Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and North Carolina, pedestrians were almost always judged culpable in midblock and intersection dash crashes, which are crashes involving a pedestrian who runs into the road or otherwise appears suddenly in the path of a vehicle. Drivers were usually at fault in other crash types such as when a vehicle is turning or backing up, or when a vehicle leaves the road and strikes a pedestrian.” 

Safety Reminders

Of course, most of these deaths and injuries are preventable. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration offers these safety tips. 

For Pedestrians:

  • Walk on a sidewalk or path when one is available; otherwise, walk on the shoulder facing traffic.
  • Stay alert: don’t be distracted by electronic devices including smart phones.
  • Never assume a driver sees you; make eye contact with drivers as they approach.
  • Be predictable: cross streets at crosswalks or intersections as this is where drivers expect pedestrians.
  • If a crosswalk or intersection is not available, locate a well-lit area, wait for a gap in traffic, and continue to watch for traffic as you cross.
  • Wear bright clothing during the day, wear reflective materials or use a flashlight at night.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs as they impair judgment and coordination. 

For Drivers

  • Look for pedestrians everywhere: They may not be walking where they should be or may be hard to see.
  • Always stop for pedestrians in a crosswalk or where crosswalk signs are posted.
  • Never pass vehicles stopped at a crosswalk as they may be allowing pedestrians to cross.
  • Slow down and look for pedestrians, being prepared to stop when turning or otherwise entering a crosswalk.
  • Never drive under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.
  • Follow the speed limit.
  • Slow down where children may be present, such as in school zones and neighborhoods.