Motor vehicle accidents involving pedestrians are one of the most dangerous and potentially deadly types of accidents because a pedestrian is simply no match for a vehicle, regardless of the vehicle’s size or the speed at which it is traveling.
While many pedestrian accidents result in death, other types of injuries commonly seen in these types of collisions include broken bones, back and neck injuries, injuries causing or necessitating amputation, internal injuries, concussions, traumatic brain injuries, and other permanently disabling injuries.
PEDESTRIAN VERSUS MOTOR VEHICLE ACCIDENT STATISTICS
The latest statistical report (2012) from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates 4,743 pedestrians were killed across the country, and another 76,000 sustained injuries in accidents involving motor vehicles. This means motor vehicle accidents caused at least one death every two hours, and one injury every seven minutes that year.
According to the Tennessee Department of Safety & Homeland Security, 941 pedestrians (including skateboarders, individuals on roller skates, sled riders and unknown non-motorists) sustained injuries in motor vehicle accidents in Tennessee during 2014, with 86 pedestrian fatalities.
Some of the most common causes of pedestrian motor vehicle accidents are drunk driving, distracted driving, speeding, reckless or aggressive driving, road rage, or a complete disregard for the safety of others. Actions of pedestrians can also lead to serious injury accidents, including: jaywalking; walking along the roadside rather than on a designated sidewalk; neglecting to look both ways before crossing; talking or texting while walking; failing to adhere to traffic signals; wearing dark clothing while walking at night; or being intoxicated.
MOST DANGEROUS INTERSECTIONS IN TENNESSEE
While any intersection, road or sidewalk can pose a potential risk to pedestrians, certain intersections have been listed among the state’s most dangerous. These intersections include:
- McCrory Lane at Highway 70 in Bellevue, outside of Nashville
- Getwell Road at Comanche Road in Memphis
- Shelby Drive at Getwell Road in Memphis
- Shelby Drive at Millbranch Road in Memphis
- Parkway East at S. Orleans Street in Memphis
- Germantown Parkway at Trinity Road in Cordova
A news report published by Public News Service in May 2014 indicated that Memphis (5th) and Nashville (15th) made the list of the nation’s most deadly large cities for pedestrians. Tennessee, as a state, was ranked as the 11th most dangerous state in the nation for pedestrians.
DETERMINING FAULT IN PEDESTRIAN ACCIDENTS
Determining fault in pedestrian accidents is not always a simple task. When a driver hits a pedestrian with a vehicle, it does not automatically mean the driver is at fault. Pedestrians and drivers both have specific rights and responsibilities. Before fault can be accurately determined in this type of accident, it is necessary to review the circumstances leading up the accident, as well as gather evidence and witness testimony, which could be used to help reveal the facts about what occurred.
PEDESTRIAN RESPONSIBILITIES AND LEGAL OBLIGATIONS
Under Tennessee law, drivers must yield the right of way to a pedestrian at an intersection or in a driveway. This does not mean pedestrians should assume that drivers will adhere to this law. Pedestrians must follow traffic signals, and use designated sidewalks. If a pedestrian wants to cross an intersection with an unmarked crosswalk or at any other section of road, he or she must yield to oncoming vehicles. Pedestrians can minimize the risk of being involved in a motor vehicle accident if they cross at designated crosswalks, look both ways before venturing across the road, yield to approaching vehicles, and remain alert for drivers unsafely operating vehicles.
Obligations and responsibilities pedestrians have under state law:
- Do not cross at a signaled intersection, unless the pedestrian-control signal indicates “walk” or “go”
- Adhere to all traffic regulations
- Look both ways before crossing at a crosswalk, even though pedestrians have the right-of-way
- Yield the right-of-way to vehicles when attempting to cross anywhere other than a designated intersection
- Never step suddenly out into the road from a curb, or other place of safety, particularly when a driver will not have sufficient time to stop
- Do not walk along a roadway when a sidewalk exists
- In cases where there is no sidewalk, pedestrians must walk on the shoulder of the road, facing traffic approaching from the opposite direction
A misdemeanor charge may be filed against a driver who violates a state pedestrian law and causes a serious injury.
DRIVERS’ RESPONSIBILITIES UNDER TENNESSEE LAW
Drivers are also required to follow the law and exercise caution when either sharing the road with pedestrians or when encountering a pedestrian in their travels. While most intersections have clearly labeled crosswalks and pedestrian-controlled signals, drivers are still responsible for yielding the right-of-way to pedestrians. Other driver responsibilities include:
- Waiting for pedestrians to cross the road before making a left or right-hand turn at an intersection
- Yielding to pedestrians crossing in a designated crosswalk
- Yielding to pedestrians in school zones, particularly where a warning signal is flashing, regardless of whether a marked crosswalk exists
- Never attempting to pass a vehicle that has come to a stop at a crosswalk or intersection for the purpose of letting a pedestrian cross
- Exercising due care to avoid colliding with a pedestrian along any roadway
- Driving at a safe speed
- Keeping a constant vigilance to avoid causing danger or harm
- Yielding to an individual being led by a guide dog or using a can identifying him or her as being blind or partially blind
- Adhering to all traffic signals, signs and other rules of the road
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Injury Prevention & Control: Motor Vehicle Safety: Pedestrian Safety
- Pedestrians and Other Pedestrians Involved in Tennessee Traffic Crashes by Year and County 2004 to 2014 YTD (http://www.tn.gov/safety/stats/CrashData/Pedestrians.pdf)
- Tennessee Traffic Fatalities (2010 through 2014) (http://www.tn.gov/safety/stats/CrashData/dailyfatality2014.pdf)
- TDOT gets National Honors for Targeting Dangerous Intersections with New, Safer J-Turns (https://news.tn.gov/node/11639)
- WMC Action News 5: Slideshow: Most Dangerous Mid-South Intersections
- Public News Service: Memphis, Nashville Among Nation’s Deadliest for Pedestrians
- Tennessee Department of Transportation: Tennessee Pedestrian Laws