Car Accidents With Pedestrians

When cars collide with pedestrians, there is high potential for serious injury. In order to help avoid accidents with pedestrians, drivers should take appropriate care when driving, especially 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.

Pedestrian Error

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 traffic controls and crosswalks are imperfect, traffic controls at pedestrian crossings can significantly reduce the chance of an accident. When an intersection with a traffic light includes pedestrian controls, those controls are normally timed such that when the pedestrian signal switches from "Walk" to "Don't Walk", a pedestrian no longer has time to safely cross the roadway. When the signal changes to "Don't Walk", pedestrians in the road should continue to cross, but pedestrians who have not yet started to cross the street should wait for the next light.

    At traffic lights that don't include pedestrian signals, as a matter of safety no pedestrians should enter a roadway once a traffic light controlling the intersection turns yellow. Whenever possible, pedestrians should cross in a crosswalk and wait for a green light.

  • Jaywalking: When pedestrians cross a road in inappropriate or unexpected locations, they put themselves at greater risk of injury. Whenever possible, pedestrians should cross in a designated crosswalk or at an intersection.

  • The "Darting Child": Children sometimes enter the roadway with little regard for traffic, often in pursuit of a pet, toy, or another child. Whether or not signs are posted that specifically warn about the presence of children, 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 a child runs 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 - that is, highways with entry and exit ramps - is extremely dangerous. Highway traffic moves at high speeds, and drivers will not be expecting pedestrians. When a roadway is marked "No Pedestrians", it is important to 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 any busy road can be dangerous, and crossing a limited access highway on foot is exceptionally dangerous.

Driver Error

Common driver errors or driving misconduct that contributes to car-pedestrian accidents 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 lights and signs that 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 involving drunk drivers who have gone off of the roadway and struck pedestrians on sidewalks.

  • Passing a School Bus: When drivers overlook or ignore school bus signals -- the red, flashing overhead lights or extended stop sign -- their passing of a school bus creates a high risk of injury to children who may be disembarking from the bus or crossing the road to board the bus.

Potential for Serious Injury

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.

A pedestrian injured by a motor vehicle will usually benefit from consulting a personal injury lawyer.

Copyright © 2006 Aaron Larson, All rights reserved. No portion of this article may be reproduced without the express written permission of the copyright holder. If you use a quotation, excerpt or paraphrase of this article, except as otherwise authorized in writing by the author of the article you must cite this article as a source for your work and include a link back to the original article from any online materials that incorporate or are derived from the content of this article.

This article was last reviewed or amended on May 8, 2018.