What are the Common Causes of Pedestrian Accidents?

January 13, 2024 | Jarrett Blakeley
What are the Common Causes of Pedestrian Accidents?

Pedestrian accidents are a serious concern in urban and suburban areas alike, often resulting in serious injuries or fatalities. According to the CDC, nearly 8,000 pedestrians died on U.S. roads in crashes involving a motor vehicle in a recent year. That accounted for about one death every 66 minutes, and one in six people who died in crashes were pedestrians.

There were also over 100,000 pedestrians who had to go to the emergency room for non-fatal crash-related injuries in the same year. Understanding these accidents' common causes is crucial for prevention and legal relief following injuries.

Below are some of the top causes of pedestrian accidents. If you suffered injuries as a pedestrian, seek assistance from a pedestrian accident lawyer near you immediately.

Distracted Driving

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Distracted driving stands out as a primary cause of pedestrian accidents, an issue that has grown in prevalence in our technology-driven society. The term "distracted driving" includes various activities that divert a driver's attention away from operating the vehicle safely.

In the context of pedestrian safety, the implications of such distractions are particularly severe. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that distracted driving claimed 3,522 lives in one year in the United States. Of those fatalities, 396 involved cell phone use at the time of the crash. About one in five of the people who died in crashes involving a distracted driver were not in vehicles but were walking, riding their bikes, or otherwise outside a vehicle.

The increase in smartphone usage has exacerbated the problem of distracted driving. Texting while driving is particularly dangerous because it combines visual, manual, and cognitive distractions. A driver who looks down at their phone to read or send a text takes their eyes off the road, their hands off the steering wheel, and their focus away from the task of driving. This split-second diversion can be all it takes for a driver to miss a pedestrian crossing the street.

Talking on the phone poses a significant risk, even with hands-free devices. Conversations can lead to a cognitive distraction where the driver's mind is not fully on driving. This diminished attention can delay the recognition of pedestrians in crosswalks, along roadways, or emerging from between parked cars, especially in areas with high foot traffic.

Using navigation systems, another common distraction, can lead to similar risks. Adjusting a GPS device or map app while driving divides a driver's attention and increases the likelihood of not seeing a pedestrian. Even seemingly benign activities like changing the radio station, eating, or interacting with passengers can lead to momentary lapses in attention that have dire consequences for pedestrian safety.

The risk of distracted driving to pedestrians is particularly present in urban settings with dense pedestrian traffic. In these environments, drivers must be constantly vigilant, as pedestrians may cross streets outside designated crosswalks or become obscured by parked cars and other urban infrastructure. Poor weather conditions, such as rain or fog, further exacerbate these risks by reducing visibility and increasing stopping distances, making attentive driving even more important.

Pedestrian accidents due to distracted driving can result in severe injuries or fatalities, given that pedestrians have no protection against the impact of a vehicle. Such accidents often have legal ramifications for the driver, who may be liable for negligence. Violations of laws against distracted driving, particularly texting while driving, can result in hefty fines, license suspensions, and even criminal charges in cases of serious accidents.


Speeding remains one of the most significant and dangerous factors contributing to pedestrian accidents. As a vehicle's speed increases, so does the risk of pedestrian accidents and the severity of injuries resulting from these incidents. According to the CDC, 60 percent of all pedestrian deaths occurred on high-capacity urban roads with posted speed limits of 45 to 55 miles per hour.

When a vehicle travels at a high speed, the driver has a lesser ability to react to sudden changes. The higher the speed, the less time a driver has to spot a pedestrian, process the situation, and respond appropriately. This reaction time is a crucial element in preventing accidents. At lower speeds, drivers have more time to notice pedestrians and take necessary action, such as braking or maneuvering the vehicle to avoid a collision.

Also, the physics of vehicle speed directly impacts the stopping distance the distance a vehicle travels from the point the driver reacts to a hazard to the point where the vehicle comes to a complete stop. Higher speeds result in longer stopping distances due to the increased momentum of the vehicle. This means that even if a driver spots a pedestrian and reacts instantly, a vehicle traveling at high speeds might not stop in time to avoid an accident.

The severity of injuries in accidents involving speeding is also a major concern. Pedestrians struck by vehicles traveling at higher speeds are far more likely to suffer severe or fatal injuries. The force of impact increases exponentially with speed, meaning that a collision that might cause minor injuries at lower speeds can be deadly at higher speeds. This is particularly alarming in areas with high pedestrian traffic, such as residential neighborhoods, school zones, and urban streets. In these areas, pedestrians, including children and the elderly, are at a heightened risk of being struck by speeding vehicles.

Speeding in residential areas and school zones is especially egregious due to the presence of vulnerable populations like children, who may be less aware of road safety rules and more likely to act unpredictably. Urban streets, often characterized by heavy pedestrian traffic, parked cars, and various visual obstructions, require drivers to be vigilant and maintain safe speeds.

Legal consequences for drivers who speed and cause pedestrian accidents can be severe. Speed limits and traffic laws aim to protect pedestrians, and violating these can result in fines, license points, and even criminal charges, especially in cases resulting in serious injury or death. Speeding drivers found to have caused a pedestrian accident may face civil liability, including claims for damages such as medical expenses, pain and suffering, and loss of income.

Alcohol and Substance Impairment

Alcohol and substance impairment is a critical factor in pedestrian accidents, posing serious risks both for drivers and pedestrians. The effects of alcohol and drugs on cognitive and physical abilities significantly compromise road safety and are a major public health concern. According to CDC data, alcohol is a factor in 49 percent of all crashes that result in a pedestrian death.

For drivers, impairment due to alcohol or drugs detrimentally affects several skills necessary for safe driving. Alcohol, even in small amounts, can lead to decreased reaction times a delay in responding to changing traffic conditions, signals, or the sudden appearance of a pedestrian. Impaired drivers are often unable to make split-second decisions to avoid accidents. Their judgment, which is vital for assessing distances and speeds and understanding road situations, is also severely compromised. Also, alcohol and drugs can affect a driver's vision and perception, making it harder to see pedestrians, particularly in low-light conditions or in urban environments.

Additionally, impairment can lead to overconfidence, leading drivers to take risks they normally wouldn't, such as speeding, ignoring traffic signals, or failing to yield to pedestrians. All these factors combine to significantly increase the risk of pedestrian accidents.

The legal implications of alcohol and substance impairment in pedestrian accidents are significant. For drivers, being under the influence and causing an accident can lead to severe legal consequences, including charges of driving under the influence (DUI), hefty fines, license suspension, and even imprisonment, especially if the accident results in serious injuries or fatalities. In addition, drivers can face civil liability, with victims or their families seeking compensation for damages and injuries caused.

The right pedestrian accident attorney can use criminal convictions of DUI to support a civil claim whenever possible. Even if a driver does not face charges, it is still possible to prevail in an injury claim, as this is a different process than a criminal case. Never hesitate to discuss a possible case with a pedestrian accident lawyer if you believe a drunk driver hit you while walking.

Failing to Yield the Right of Way

Failing to yield the right of way to pedestrians is another common cause of pedestrian accidents, particularly at intersections and crosswalks where pedestrians and vehicles intersect. This failure can stem from a lack of understanding of traffic laws or simple inattention, which can have devastating consequences.

Intersections and crosswalks should be safe zones for pedestrians to cross streets, but when drivers neglect their duty to yield, these areas can become hazardous. Many drivers, especially in busy urban environments, may focus primarily on the flow of vehicular traffic, looking out for cars rather than pedestrians. This tunnel vision can be particularly acute when drivers are making turns. In such situations, a driver's attention may be directed towards navigating the turn and watching for oncoming vehicles, leading to a failure to notice pedestrians who are legally crossing the road.

Additionally, ignorance or misunderstanding of traffic laws contributes to this problem. Not all drivers are fully aware of the rules regarding pedestrian right of way. This lack of knowledge can lead to dangerous situations where drivers mistakenly assume they have the right of way over pedestrians.

Impatience and aggressive driving behavior also play a role in these accidents. In scenarios where drivers are in a hurry or are frustrated by traffic conditions, they may choose to ignore pedestrians' right of way to save time. This behavior is not only illegal but also extremely risky, as it can lead to severe injuries or fatalities for pedestrians.

The consequences of failing to yield the right of way can be severe. Pedestrians, lacking the protective shell of a vehicle, are extremely vulnerable to collisions. An impact, even at low speeds, can result in serious injuries, given the lack of protection for pedestrians. Common injuries in such accidents include fractures, traumatic brain injuries, and, in more severe cases, life-threatening trauma or wrongful death.

From a legal perspective, drivers who fail to yield the right of way and cause pedestrian accidents can face significant repercussions. Depending on the jurisdiction, this can range from traffic citations and fines to criminal charges in cases of serious injury or death. Additionally, these drivers can also face civil liability, with victims or their families pursuing claims for damages, including medical expenses, lost income, and pain and suffering.

Understanding the causes of pedestrian accidents is important not only for prevention but also for legal recourse. Victims of pedestrian accidents may have the right to seek compensation for their injuries, medical expenses, lost income, and other damages. Determining the cause of the accident is a key step in establishing liability. Whether it's a driver's negligence, an impaired pedestrian, or inadequate infrastructure, each scenario carries different legal implications.

Pedestrian accidents often require a thorough investigation, including analysis of traffic camera footage, witness statements, and accident reconstruction. Legal representation is often necessary in these cases, ensuring that the rights of victims are protected and that they receive the compensation they deserve.

Contact a Pedestrian Accident Lawyer as Soon as Possible

The common causes of pedestrian accidents highlight the shared responsibility between drivers, pedestrians, and local governments to ensure road safety. Recognizing these factors can help in both preventing accidents and providing a framework for legal action when accidents do occur.

For those affected by pedestrian accidents, seeking knowledgeable legal advice is the first step in understanding your rights and options for pursuing a claim. Remember, in the face of such incidents, legal support can provide you with the guidance and advocacy you need to start recovering from your accident.

Consultations with personal accident attorneys near you should be free of charge. You do not have to worry about paying legal fees upfront to hire the representation you need. Seek your case evaluation and learn about your rights following a pedestrian accident right away. It can give you immediate peace of mind and improve your financial future.

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Jarrett Blakeley

Firm founder Jarrett Blakeley fights to get maximum compensation for all of Blakeley Law Firm’s clients. He has been practicing law since 2006 and takes great pride in representing the rights of injured individuals against the insurance companies and the law firms that represent them. He has successfully represented thousands of clients and recovered tens of millions of dollars on their behalf. Mr. Blakeley strives to give all of his clients personal attention and maximum effort and seeks to instill a firm culture that prioritizes customer service and compassion for the injured over all else. Fighting for the injured is Jarrett Blakeley’s greatest passion and he looks forward to fighting for the injured for the rest of his career.

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