Woodland Hills personal injury attorney has noticed an increase in auto versus pedestrian accident cases. They say: “Never walk in Southern California!” This advice may be true given the high level of driver distraction. Also, a contributing factor is “pedestrian distraction!” As a lifetime resident of the San Fernando Valley, an anecdotal further factor is that drivers simply do not expect people to be walking in and around where cars are driving. So, the sudden appearance of a pedestrian is a shock and relatively unfamiliar circumstance.
Not surprisingly, when vehicular traffic intersects with pedestrian traffic the possibility of Pedestrian Traffic Fatalities is not only present, but a substantial risk. In a recent report prepared for the Governors Highway Safety Association, the number of Pedestrian Traffic Fatalities by State were analyzed. The report noted solid increases in pedestrian traffic fatalities Nationwide. The fatalities were up about 30% over a two-year period. About 6,000 pedestrian fatalities are estimated to have occurred in 2016, which could make 2016 the first year in more than two decades with more than 6,000 pedestrian deaths. This is really a staggering increase which needs explanation and real time solutions.
Again, no surprise, and for obvious reasons, States differed wildly in fatality numbers. The number of pedestrian deaths for the first half of 2016 ranged from one in Wyoming to 359 in California. In fact, four states (California, Florida, Texas, and New York) accounted for 42 percent of all pedestrian deaths. Everyone knows that lighting plays a big factor in pedestrian fatalities. In fact, 74% pedestrian fatalities occur at dark. Also, 34% of fatalities are alcohol related.
Southern California Pedestrian Fatalities
Against this backdrop of factors which impact the overall pedestrian fatality risks, Southern California drivers and pedestrians should be aware that “urbanization” is a major consideration. The Los Angeles metropolitan area ranks number two, behind New York City for most pedestrian deaths. Los Angeles combines the high rate of motor vehicle traffic with the danger of “walking in LA!” Stated simply, Los Angeles was designed for cars —- not pedestrians.
A complicating factor is that major metropolitan areas like Los Angeles are attempting to transition into more efficient mass transit, bicycle friendly and pedestrian friendly. During this “transition” a reverse to the desired effect occurs. More pedestrians are mixing with vehicular traffic. That is the ultimate recipe for traffic-related pedestrian fatalities.
The Most Dangerous Street in the San Fernando Valley for Pedestrian Traffic Fatalities
In a recent Article authored by personal injury lawyer Barry P. Goldberg, “The Most Dangerous Street” was examined in depth. Sherman Way in Canoga Park has a unique blend of main Street, USA shops, Latino and ethnic markets, and many, many people crossing this thoroughfare by foot. In fact, Sherman Way has almost every danger factor present and in operation characterized by high pedestrian density and multiple cross walks placed fairly close together. Drivers are caught off guard—-pedestrians do not stand a chance!
Pedestrian Fatalities can be Drastically Reduced through Policy and Engineering.
The frequency and severity of motor vehicle-pedestrian crashes can be reduced through a broad range of approaches, including targeted enforcement, engineering countermeasures, public education, and vehicle design changes.
Separate Pedestrians for Motor Vehicles
- ● Refuge islands
- ● Sidewalks and pedestrian overpasses/underpasses
- ● Provision of ample crossing time, and countdown pedestrian signals
- ● Pedestrian Hybrid Beacons
- ● New traffic signals where warranted
Make Pedestrians More Visible
- ● Improved street lighting
- ● High-visibility crosswalks
- ● Rectangular rapid-flashing beacons (RRFBs) mounted to pedestrian crossing signs
Engineering and Enforcement Measures to Reduce Speeds
Higher vehicle speeds are strongly associated with both a greater likelihood of pedestrian crashes and more serious and fatal pedestrian injuries. For this reason, efforts to reduce speeding on streets with pedestrian activity are a major focus of many municipal Vision Zero programs.
- ● Road diets that create space for other uses (e.g., bicycle lanes, sidewalks, turn lanes)
- ● Roundabouts in place of stop signs and traffic signals
- ● Traffic calming devices such as speed humps and curb extensions where appropriate
- ● Automated enforcement as a supplement to traditional enforcement
The above is just a few of the mitigating strategies that will dramatically reduce pedestrian traffic fatalities. California has already started to address the increasing problem because AAA estimated in 2016 that the cost of operating a car for one year is approximately $8,558, while walking is free. California is trying to pry people out of their vehicles.
Behavioral measures to address pedestrian safety in California include:
- Establishing September as Pedestrian Safety Month;
- Funding the printing and distribution of culturally specific educational materials;
- Funding and distributing pedestrian safety equipment, including reflective arm and leg bands, and crossing guard kits; and
- Collaborating with community-based organizations, law enforcement, advocates, hospitals, and schools. Law enforcement efforts target primary collision factors, crosswalk stings, and distracted driving operations at locations with high number of pedestrian-related collisions.
On the engineering front, the California offers free Complete Streets safety assessments for communities with high numbers of pedestrian collisions.
In the end, California drivers and pedestrians are going to have to be more careful. The distracted driving of texting while driving will always counteract otherwise safe areas and procedures. On the flip side, pedestrians will simply have to assume that drivers do not see them before placing themselves in harm’s way. Hopefully, pedestrians will not be “texting while walking!”