Pedestrian Deaths Increase, Both Drivers and Pedestrians are to Blame

According to a report recently issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), after 10 years of decline, the number of pedestrians killed in traffic accidents is rising in Minnesota, as well as nationwide.

The NHTSA report said that 4,280 pedestrians were killed and about 70,000 were injured by motor vehicle accidents nationwide during 2010. This represents a four percent increase from 2009. Minnesota showed a similar increase-the number of statewide pedestrian deaths increased to 41, 36 and 40 for the years of 2009, 2010 and 2011, after having dipped to 25 in 2008.

Nationwide, pedestrian deaths represented 13 percent of the traffic fatalities for 2010. The percentage was slightly lower in Minnesota-11 percent of those killed in traffic accidents were pedestrians.

Many Factors Contribute to Increase

Experts say that both pedestrians and drivers are to blame for the increase in accidents. State statistics reveal that drivers failing to yield the right of way were the leading cause of pedestrian deaths in 2011, causing 35 percent of deaths to pedestrians.

The next largest cause of accidents was driver distraction or inattention, responsible for 24 percent of pedestrian-vehicle accidents. The NHTSA estimates that driver distraction, such as texting and cellphone use, were responsible for 18 percent of car accidents in 2010.

Unfortunately, Minnesota was not spared the ill effects of driver distraction. Although 24 percent of pedestrian deaths in Minnesota during 2011 involved jaywalking, even when crosswalks were used, a significant portion of pedestrians were still at risk of injury by distracted drivers. In 2011, 15 percent of pedestrians in Minnesota who were injured in traffic accidents were correctly crossing the road with the traffic signal.

In addition to distracted drivers, pedestrians also share the blame for accidents. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, in 2010, 1,152 pedestrians were treated nationwide for injures that occurred while they were walking or using a cellphone or electronic device. Experts believe that this number is highly unreported.

While pedestrian distraction is a factor, alcohol also plays a significant factor in pedestrian fatalities. According to the NHTSA, 33 percent of pedestrians who were killed in 2010 had a blood alcohol level of .08 or higher-the legal definition of intoxicated in many states.

In Minnesota, 27 percent of pedestrians who were tested for alcohol consumption after being killed in a traffic accident during 2011 had blood alcohol levels of .10 and higher. Most pedestrians were killed between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m. and most were between the ages of 20 and 24.

An Attorney Can Help

In Minnesota, if a pedestrian is injured as a result of a driver's negligence, the driver can be held accountable for the pedestrian's medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering and other damages. In addition, if the pedestrian is killed, the family of the pedestrian may recover damages from the driver in a wrongful death lawsuit.

However, if at the time of the accident, the pedestrian was texting, talking on a cellphone, using an electronic device or intoxicated, the pedestrian may also be construed as negligent and have his or her right to recover damages from the driver reduced or eliminated all together.

It is therefore important that both drivers and pedestrians pay attention and observe the rules of the road. However, accidents will happen even with the best intentions to comply with the law. If you or a loved one has been injured by a motorist, contact an experienced personal injury attorney. An attorney can investigate the causes of the accident and work to hold the responsible party accountable for their actions.