Cars are a very real danger to pedestrians

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A car crash is often portrayed as two vehicles violently colliding at a high speed. The portrayal may come with a warning about wearing a seatbelt, or paying attention while you’re behind the wheel in order to minimize the risk of a bad accident.

Increasingly however people are getting around without the use of a car, especially in a busy city where someone might walk from one thing to another. It’s been particularly dangerous recently in Austin, which recorded a record number of pedestrian deaths in 2018, according to a report by the American-Statesman.

If you’re someone who prefers to head places on foot – be it out to lunch during the workday, from public transportation to an entertainment venue, or from one bar to another – here are some things to keep in mind.

Where pedestrian crashes occur

More than half of pedestrian crashes from 2010-15 happened at intersections, according to the City of Austin’s Vision Zero safety plan. In those crashes, motorists were found to be at fault more often than not.

In addition, nearly 40% of those pedestrian crashes happened next to commercially used land (which could include bars, restaurants, theaters and other entertainment venues), while 13% of crashes happened by office-use land. That’s likely because pedestrian activity is higher in those areas.

Death and injury

Fatal crashes often get the headlines, but many people involved in car accidents suffer non-fatal injuries. According to the Vision Zero plan, for every recorded death in a pedestrian crash there are 10 serious injuries.

In addition, there are certain times when pedestrian crashes tend to be more severe – meaning more likely to result in an incapacitating injury or death:

  • On weekends (compared to weekdays)
  • At night (compared to during the day)
  • During the summer months
  • In lowlight conditions

Common contributing factors

Some of the most common contributing factors to pedestrian crashes in Austin include speed, distraction or inattention, improper maneuvers, a failure to stop or yield, and impairment. It’s important to keep in mind that some of these factors – particularly impairment and a failure to yield – were often attributed to the pedestrian. But factors such as distraction and improper maneuvers were overwhelmingly attributed to the driver.

It’s a reminder to always be aware if you’re out walking, and to take steps to be as safe as possible. Always cross at an intersection, follow street signals, don’t walk around while impaired and keep your eyes up – not looking down at your phone. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always protect you from a driver's mistake.

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