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Pedestrians Are Increasingly at Risk as they Walk Along

Whether we go out for a jog, cross the street, walk to work or take a stroll, most people in Illinois spend some time as pedestrians. The U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is currently concerned for the safety of pedestrians with good reason.

According to the NHTSA, pedestrian accidents killed 4,280 individuals nationwide in 2010 alone. 115 of these pedestrian fatalities occurred in Illinois. A total of 70,000 additional pedestrians were injured nationwide. Pedestrians account for more than one eighth of all yearly traffic fatalities in the U.S., and account for three percent of the motor vehicle accident injuries. To place these statistics in a different light, a pedestrian dies in a traffic accident somewhere in the country every two hours, and one is injured every eight minutes.

NHTSA statistics indicate that 73 percent of pedestrian deaths happen in cities, rather than rural locales. Only 21 percent occur at intersections, with the rest occurring elsewhere. The majority of pedestrian fatalities take place at night, with less than a third occurring during daylight hours. More than two-thirds of the pedestrians who die each year are male.

While the death rate for pedestrians seemed to be on a declining trend in past years, along with total motor vehicle accident deaths, 2010 witnessed an alarming four percent rise in pedestrian deaths over 2009.

Looking for answers to the increase in preventable pedestrian wrongful deaths and ways to stem the tide, some have suggested that distraction might play a part. Pedestrians share the responsibility to remain alert on the roads and might be engaged when walking distracted. Use of cell phones for calls and texting can divert pedestrians just like drivers.

Four states, including Illinois, have taken a stab at the problem by proposing distracted-walking measures. These proposed laws would fine pedestrians for using mobile devices or headphones in busy areas like city intersections. None of the measures has made it through the legislature. Other states have chosen to mount campaigns to enhance public awareness of the dangers of walking while not paying attention, using public displays to send the message.

Another factor that may be worth attending to is alcohol use. The NHTSA has determined that alcohol is involved on someone's part in 47 percent of accidents resulting in pedestrian fatalities. Almost a third of the pedestrians who died in traffic crashes had a blood alcohol level of .08 or higher, the legal limit for drunk driving. In contrast, only 14 percent of the drivers who were involved had a blood alcohol level that high.

An intoxicated male pedestrian using a mobile device while walking in a city at night would seem likely to be tempting fate. Pedestrian accidents, though, can happen to anyone. Anyone who is injured due to someone else's negligence needs capable legal representation, to obtain compensation for medical expenses and other costs arising from pedestrian accidents. Consulting an attorney as soon as possible after an accident will help to ensure the best result.

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