By Aaron Larson
When cars collide with pedestrians, there is high potential for serious injury.
Drivers should take appropriate care in crowded areas or school zones, for the potential that a pedestrian will enter the roadway.
Pedestrians should follow the advice that we attempt to ingrain into the youngest of children - look both ways before attempting to cross the street.
Pedestrians have a great capacity to avoid being struck by cars, as it is very rare for collisions to occur outside of the roadway. When pedestrians exercise due caution before entering a road, the chances of being struck by a car are very low. The chances of accident go up significantly in the following contexts:
Ignoring Traffic Controls - Although many are imperfect, pedestrian traffic controls tend to be timed such that when the signal switches from "walk" to "don't walk", a pedestrian no longer has time to safely cross the roadway. At such a time, pedestrians in the road should continue to cross, but pedestrians on the corner should wait for the next light. Similarly, if there are no pedestrian control devices, no pedestrians should enter a roadway once a traffic light controlling the intersection turns yellow. Whenver possible, cross in a crosswalk and wait for a green light.
Jaywalking - When pedestrians choose to cross the street in inappropriate or unexpected locations, they put themselves at greater risk of injury. It is best to cross in a designated crosswalk or at an intersection.
The "Darting" Child - Children sometimes "dart" into the roadway with little regard for traffic, often in pursuit of a pet, toy, or another child. Motorists should take particular care when they see children at play in a neighborhood, or when they pass a park, school, or other area which is posted as having children present.
The Parent In Pursuit - When children run into a roadway, their parent's first thought may be to rescue the child, and they may run into the road in complete disregard of oncoming traffic.
Walking On A Limited Access Highway - Pedestrian traffic on limited access highways is extremely dangerous. Highway traffic moves at high speeds, and drivers will not be expecting pedestrians. When a roadway is marked "No Pedestrians", respect that prohibition. If your vehicle breaks down on a limited access highway, and you get out to perform maintenance or to try to walk somewhere for help, you should take great care not to put yourself in danger. Attempting to cross a highway on foot is exceptionally dangerous.
Common driver errors or driving misconduct which contributes to car-pedestrian accidentse include:
Disregarding a Crosswalk - Drivers who don't pay attention to crosswalks, whether at intersections or at other points in the roadway, create a significant risk of accident. Drivers should exercise appropriate care that pedestrians are not crossing the road before passing through a designated crosswalk.
Disregarding a Traffic Control Device - When drivers ignore traffic controls, particularly those which specifically relate to pedestrian traffic, they significantly increase the chances of an accident.
Disregarding a Pedestrian Already Crossing the Roadway - When a pedestrian in the roadway ahead of a car is obviously crossing the road, or has entered the driver's lane while in the process of crossing the road, drivers should exercise appropriate caution and should yield as necessary to avoid accident.
Driving While Intoxicated - Drunk drivers pose a high risk of injury to pedestrians, and there are many notorious cases where drunk drivers have caused accidents, striking pedestrians on sidewalks.
Passing a School Bus - When drivers overlook or ignore the red, flashing overhead lights on a school bus, their passing of a school bus creates a high risk of injury to children who may be disembarking from the bus.
When a pedestrian is struck by several thousand pounds of metal and glass, even a low-speed collision carries a high potential for serious or catastrophic injury, or even death. Parents should emphasize pedestrian safety rules with their children, and should set a good example by following those safety rules themselves.
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