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Washington Personal Injury Law Blog

Pedestrian accidents are especially a problem for children

On the whole, pedestrian accidents happen a lot less often than other accidents. For instance, 2017 saw a total of 5,977 pedestrian deaths. While nearly 6,000 deaths is a lot, around 35,000 to 40,000 people lose their lives annually in traffic accidents in the United States. Pedestrians factor into that, but more die in other ways. If you divide it out, about one out of every 6.67 traffic deaths involves a pedestrian.

However, for young children, pedestrian accidents that result in death are common. Roughly 20% of children under 15 years of age who are involved in pedestrian accidents die from their injuries.

Think everyone drives? Not in Washington.

Sometimes it feels like everyone in America drives. People will drive their cars half a mile to go to the store. They commute every day. The most time they spend outside is while walking from the house to the car.

In Washington, though, this just doesn't hold true. Roughly 25%-30% of people in the state do not drive. Even when you add in those who do, reports claim that "nearly all Washingtonians walk on a daily basis."

Drunk drivers put all of our lives in danger

The chances that a motorist will become involved in an auto accident increase during peak driving times. Crashes are most common on or around holidays and during morning or evening rush hour. Inclement weather also elevates the potential for auto collisions due to there being less-than-optimal driving conditions. These factors are small when compared to the devastation that drunk drivers cause, though. They are a menace to highway and traffic safety for many.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data shows that 36 people, on average, die in an alcohol-related automobile accident every day. The federal agency's data shows that that number jumps to 45 people per day during Christmas time and 54 daily deaths around New Year's eve and day.

Federal government relaxes hours of service rules for truckers

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, took a big step last month toward relaxing the hours of service (HOS) rules for commercial truck drivers. HOS, which were first implemented more than 80 years ago, dictate how long drivers can remain behind the wheel. They are an important safeguard against drowsy driving, which can and do lead to too many fatal crashes.

The current presidential administration has promoted the changes to the current HOS rules, which were published in mid-May. U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said they will provide "greater flexibility to keep America moving." The FMCSA's acting administrator also touted the added flexibility. He also said the updated HOS regulations "are based on the thousands of comments we received from the American people. These reforms will improve safety on America's roadways and strengthen the nation's motor carrier industry."

Washington police warn that speed and accidents are both up

The weather is getting warmer, and the police in Washington are concerned. They have noticed an uptick in both speeding and traffic accidents -- a potentially deadly combination.

For instance, the state has seen 17 fatal motorcycle crashes this year. A full dozen of them happened in April.

Running safely near traffic

You want to stay in shape, but you don't own a treadmill and the gym is closed. What do you do? You have to go out and run on the sidewalks. Without a sidewalk, you can legally run on the side of the road, near the shoulder, if you're running toward traffic.

But that comes with risks. When you look at the pedestrian accident statistics, you know that many of them include joggers who get hit as they run. How can you stay safe? Here are a few tips:

  • As noted above, always run toward traffic. This increases your reaction times if it looks like someone may hit you.
  • Wear bright clothes. Running in gray or black just makes you blend in.
  • If possible, run during the day.
  • Do not wear headphones and listen to music while you run. You need to avoid distractions and listen to traffic around you.
  • Run as if you're invisible. Never assume drivers can see you and act as if they never will.
  • Understand where greater risks lie, such as while you come up over a hill or as you go around a sharp bend.
  • Remember that many drivers coming out of parking lots or side streets never look at the sidewalk at all. They just look at the traffic on the road they're entering. Be very wary of these careless drivers when crossing in front of them.

Driving distractions work in 3 main ways

Cellphones lead to many distracted driving accidents as people use social media, take pictures and send or read text messages. But there are plenty of other distractions as well, such as eating a hamburger, changing the radio station, talking to a passenger or even adjusting the mirror. Accidents have even happened because people saw a spider in the car. Distractions come from every direction.

That said, they generally work in three different ways, no matter what type of distraction you're talking about. There are visual distractions, mental distractions and manual distractions. That means they either take your eyes off of the road, they distract you from thinking about driving or they take your hands off of the wheel.

What should you do if someone swerves into your lane?

One of the big risks with distracted driving is that the driver may drift or swerve into the oncoming lanes. They don't even know that they have done it since they're looking down at the phone. They just drive on obliviously, right toward those oncoming cars, making an accident imminent. If someone ends up in your lane, what should you do?

Start by honking your horn and slowing down. You want to reduce speed so that a potential crash is not as violent, and you want to increase the time it takes the two cars to reach one another. You can use this time to try to get the driver's attention. Hopefully, they'll look up and swerve back into the proper lane.

Drowsy drivers pose a threat on the road

When people in Washington get behind the wheel, they may be afraid of encountering another driver who is drunk or texting while driving. While these behaviors pose significant dangers, they are not the only types of negligent behavior that can lead to serious car accidents. Drowsy driving, or operating a vehicle when too tired to do so safely, poses a serious threat to others on the road. Each year, the National Safety Council implements Drowsy Driving Prevention Week to draw attention to the serious impairments associated with driving while drowsy. In 2020, the week will be November 1-8.

Almost 50% of drivers in the United States admit to sometimes driving while feeling sleepy, especially if they get too little sleep at night but need to commute to school or work in the morning. A full one-fifth of the respondents to one National Sleep Foundation survey said that they had fallen asleep while driving at one point in the past year while 40% said it had happened at least once in their lives. In 2015 alone, at least 5,000 people were killed in motor vehicle accidents caused by drowsy driving while many thousands more were seriously injured.

Pedestrians face growing danger on the road

Pedestrians in Washington may face growing threats on the road. Across the country, there were approximately 6,590 pedestrians killed in motor vehicle accidents in 2019, a significant increase from previous years. According to the Governors Highway Safety Administration, this marks a 60% increase in pedestrian fatalities in the 10 years since 2009. Pedestrians faced more risks than others; other types of traffic deaths rose only 2% overall in the same time period.

Many people are concerned about risks to pedestrians, especially as many communities encourage walking and biking as green, healthful alternatives to driving everywhere. The increase in pedestrian deaths in 2019 reflected an ongoing trend and a 5% increase from one year earlier in 2018.