Personal Injury Lawyers • Portland and Waterville, ME

Pedestrian Deaths Reach Highest Level in Decades

Crosswalk in Maine on a road.

Last year was the worst year for pedestrian accident fatalities nationwide in more than four decades, according to a recent annual traffic safety study conducted by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA).

"Every day, 20 people go for a walk and do not return home," Jonathan Adkins, GHSA chief executive officer, said in an interview with Forbes. "These are people living their daily lives – commuting to and from school and work, picking up groceries, walking the dog, getting some exercise – who died suddenly and violently."

Pedestrian fatalities hit four-decade high

The annual GHSA "Pedestrian Accident Fatalities By State" report is based on accident data collected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). According to the GHSA, in 2022, there were 7,508 pedestrian deaths nationwide, marking the highest number of fatalities in a single year since 1981.

The 37-page-long report highlights that this alarming statistic continues an ongoing upward trend in the United States, spanning several decades. The report emphasizes that it is our collective responsibility to ensure the safety of pedestrians.

In particular, the past decade has witnessed a significant escalation in pedestrian accident deaths. The GHSA's findings reveal that between 2010 and 2022, pedestrian fatalities increased by 77 percent. Furthermore, 2019 to 2022 saw a notable 19 percent rise in pedestrian fatalities.

How bad are pedestrian accidents in Maine?

Pedestrian fatalities in Maine have experienced a significant increase over the past decade, mirroring the nationwide trend. According to the latest GHSA report and historic NHTSA pedestrian accident data, the state has witnessed a 133 percent rise in pedestrian deaths between 2010 and 2022.

Starting from 9 deaths in 2010, the numbers reached a record high of 21 fatalities in 2022. Of particular concern is the situation in 2021, where Maine had the highest per capita increase in pedestrian deaths compared to all other states, as highlighted by the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, drawing on GHSA studies.

Among the various areas within Maine, Portland emerges as a particularly hazardous location for pedestrians. The Bicycle Coalition of Maine reports that the city's pedestrian crash rate is nearly five times higher than the rest of the state. Furthermore, from 2010 to 2021, Portland alone accounted for 13 pedestrian deaths, constituting 8 percent of the total pedestrian fatalities in Maine during that period, which amounted to 155 statewide.

Why do pedestrian accidents happen?

The alarming increase in pedestrian deaths in recent years can be attributed to several factors, as identified by the GHSA and other pedestrian safety experts:

  • First, the prevalence of larger vehicles, particularly SUVs, has been identified as a significant contributing factor. Recent research, highlighted in an episode of Freakonomics focused on pedestrian fatalities, indicates that when SUVs collide with pedestrians, the likelihood of fatal accidents is higher compared to other vehicle types. This is because an SUV has a higher front-end profile, and the increased weight of an SUV can result in more severe impacts, specifically to the head and upper body rather than the legs.
  • Another critical factor is the persistent issue of drinking and driving, which plays a role in 19 percent of pedestrian fatalities. This dangerous behavior continues to contribute to the tragic loss of pedestrian lives.
  • Moreover, speeding remains a concerning issue, accounting for an estimated 8 percent of pedestrian deaths. Disregarding speed limits and reckless driving habits pose a grave risk to pedestrians.
  • Finally, distracted driving, mainly due to texting while driving, has emerged as a growing cause of pedestrian accidents. However, obtaining accurate statistics on this matter is challenging since many drivers deny texting, and some law enforcement officials may not inquire about phone use when documenting pedestrian-involved incidents.

What can be done to prevent pedestrian accidents?

The GHSA offered several solutions for reducing the number of pedestrian accidents and fatalities:

  • Improve lighting on streets, crosswalks, and intersections where pedestrian accidents often occur. This is especially important since most pedestrian accidents occur on a small number of streets, according to the recent Freakonomics radio program.
  • Reduce the speed limits on roads where pedestrian accidents are common.
  • Design roads with all road users in mind, especially pedestrians.
  • Build sidewalks alongside roads that don't currently have them and where pedestrian accidents have occurred in the past.
  • Increase enforcement of speeding and drunk driving. When police stop drivers and give tickets for breaking these laws, drivers historically drive slower and sober.
  • Make sure driver education courses emphasize the importance of pedestrian safety.

How can a pedestrian accident attorney help?

In the aftermath of a pedestrian accident, numerous factors can come into play when filing a claim, making it challenging to navigate the legal process. Insurance companies may attempt to minimize their liability and offer a lowball settlement that doesn't come close to the compensation you actually deserve. Additionally, determining fault and establishing the full extent of your injuries and damages can be complicated without the help of an experienced pedestrian accident lawyer.

At Jabar LaLiberty, LLC, we've been successfully representing injured Mainers since 1979. Our attorneys are well-versed in the tactics employed by insurance companies to limit compensation and strive to build strong cases on behalf of clients to ensure they receive the financial compensation they deserve. To learn more about how we can help you, contact us today for a free consultation. We have two offices conveniently located in Portland and Waterville, Maine.

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