The best way for you to avoid getting hit by a car when you're walking is to be aware of the situations that most often lead to pedestrian-vehicle accidents.
About 12 percent of motor vehicle crash deaths each year involve pedestrians, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the Highway Loss Data Institute.
If it seems that most of the pedestrians you observe taking risks in traffic are male, you are right, according to IIHS.
Pedestrians were almost always judged to be at fault in midblock and "intersection dash" accidents, in which pedestrians enter the path of traffic, according to a 2002 study of pedestrian deaths in Baltimore and Washington, D.C. People on foot were judged to be at fault 50 percent of the time compared to 39 percent for drivers.
Drivers are usually at fault in crashes where vehicles turned, backed up or went off the road.
Here's how to avoid getting hit by cars when you're walking.
- Wait and look. Always wait for the traffic signal to turn green before crossing the street, and even then, look around. "Every pedestrian who is hit by a car never saw the car coming," says Thomas J. Simeone, a Washington, D.C., attorney who represents accident victims. "That's why they entered the roadway."
- Dress to be seen. The crosswalk may not be the right place to make a fashion statement, but the clothing you choose can make a difference to your safety, says Stephanie Schwartz, the owner of Roadrunner Traffic School in Arizona. "Pedestrians can always help ensure their own safety by wearing lighter colors," she says.
- Don't wander into the street while walking next to the road. Use sidewalks whenever possible. If there are no sidewalks, it's usually better to walk facing oncoming traffic. Also, stay away from freeways and restricted areas.
- Don't cross the road at a curve. Make sure you cross where approaching drivers can see you clearly.
- Try to make eye contact with drivers before stepping onto the highway. It's a mistake to assume that drivers always see you.
- Don't walk near traffic while tipsy. Alcohol and drugs can affect your ability to walk safely and make good judgments about traffic.
Watch out for quiet hybrid cars
New technology may be putting walkers at greater risk. As more gasoline-electric hybrid cars hit the road, an increasing number of pedestrians are claiming that they never heard the car that struck them. A NHTSA study that examined the crashes of hybrid cars and similar non-hybrid cars found that the percent of crashes involving pedestrians was 40 percent higher for hybrids.
Dealing with car insurance companies
If you are hit by a car while walking, you can file a car insurance claim against the driver. Just like a car-to-car accident, you want to try to get the driver's information at the scene of the accident and make a police report.
- Gather all evidence that supports your car insurance claim, including the names of witnesses. Then notify the driver's insurance company of your claim.
- If you have a no-fault auto insurance policy or are making a claim for uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage (for a hit-and-run accident, for example), you must submit the claim to your own car insurance company.
- If the driver's auto insurance isn't enough to compensate you, you can hire an attorney and take the matter to court. You're entitled to be "made whole" following an accident. That may include compensation for medical bills as well as pain and suffering, lost wages from work, emotional distress and property loss.
"People need to approach crossing a street as if their life depended on it, because it does," says David Snyder, vice president and associate general counsel for the American Insurance Association. "All too often we take day-to-day activities, although hazardous, lightly."
The Pedestrian Danger Index
The four most dangerous places to walk in America are in Florida.
Transportation for America's 2011 edition of its "Dangerous by Design" report calculates the Pedestrian Danger Index in metro areas around the country. Of course, cities where people walk more have more pedestrian deaths, so the index plots the number of pedestrians who die against the number of people who walk.
The result is bad news for Sun Belt pedestrians. Of the 20 most dangerous places to walk, only one -- Detroit -- is north of the Mason-Dixon Line.
The worst places to walk in America
|2||Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL||905||213|
|4||Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL||1,555||168|
|5||Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA||938||139|
|6||Las Vegas-Paradise, NV||421||135|
|9||Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX||1,024||128|
|10||Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX||942||119|
|11||Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, GA||798||119|
|15||New Orleans-Metairie-Kenner, LA||300||107|
|18||Austin-Round Rock, TX||231||96|
|19||Louisville/Jefferson County, KY-IN||192||96|
|22||Oklahoma City, OK||167||90|
|23||St. Louis, MO-IL||387||88|
|24||San Antonio, TX||354||88|
|26||Kansas City, MO-KS||234||83|
|27||Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, CA||2,533||76|
|28||San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, CA||623||75|
|30||San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA||274||68|
|33||Salt Lake City, UT||131||60|
|36||Buffalo-Niagara Falls, NY||163||49|
|37||Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT||135||48|
|40||Providence-New Bedford-Fall River, RI-MA||186||42|
|41||San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA||685||39|
|43||Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI||165||37|
|44||Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC||170||37|
|48||Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI||254||35|
|50||New York-Northern N.J.-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA||3,485||30|