Less traffic did not mean fewer pedestrian accidents in the early months of the pandemic. In fact, preliminary traffic data shows there was roughly the same number of fatal pedestrian accidents in the first half of 2020 compared to the same period of 2019.
However, because there were fewer cars out, the Governor’s Highway Safety Association (GHSA) is actually projecting a 20 percent increase in the pedestrian fatality rate per one billion miles traveled, according to the report, “Pedestrian Traffic Fatalities by State: 2020 Preliminary Data.”
According to the data analysis, 2,957 pedestrians were killed in motor vehicle crashes during the first half of 2020. This is 6 more pedestrians than the same period of 2019, when the calculation included more vehicles on the road.
If trends continue, 2020 could end up having a record rate of fatal pedestrian accidents, despite having fewer cars on the road.
How much less traffic? The Federal Highway Work Administration reported a 16.5 percent decrease in traffic on all roads and streets in 2020. Here in Massachusetts, MassDOT reported an immediate 50 percent reduction in traffic volumes in April 2020. Massachusetts traffic volumes were still 20 percent lower than normal in September 2020, according to our past blog on COVID-19 traffic conditions in Massachusetts.
Larger Trend of Pedestrian Fatalities
For years, pedestrian fatalities have been on a dangerous rise in the U.S. Prior to COVID-19, pedestrian traffic fatalities stood at the highest levels since 1990. There was a striking 46 percent increase in these accidents from 2010 to 2019, according to the GHSA. In 2019, pedestrian traffic fatalities accounted for roughly 17 percent of all traffic deaths.
How Many Pedestrian Fatalities Occurred in Massachusetts During COVID-19 in 2020?
In preliminary data, Massachusetts reported 17 pedestrian fatalities in the first half of 2020, compared to 32 from January to June 2019.
Massachusetts was one of 20 states, along with Washington D.C., which reported a decrease in the actual number of pedestrians who were killed in car accidents or crashes involving trucks, SUVs and other vehicles.
In 27 other states, the number of pedestrian fatalities in car accidents and truck crashes increased.
Notably, more than half of all pedestrian fatalities happened in seven of the most populous states, including Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, New York, North Carolina and Texas.
Contributing Factors in the Rising Number of Pedestrian Fatalities
The GHSA cited several trends in these fatalities, including drivers who sped down open roads simply because there was less traffic.
Distraction and fatigue also contributed to many pedestrian crashes, including when drivers were negligent and failed to stop at an intersection or stay within the marked lane. In Massachusetts, the new hands-free cell phone law took effect in April 2020 but the impact was effectively delayed by Covid-19.
In addition, the report touched on the trend of drivers choosing light trucks and SUVs more often. In 2019, sales of light trucks and SUVs far outpaced passenger vehicles. The larger vehicles accounted for 72 percent of all auto sales.
Pedestrians are still more likely to be injured by a driver in a passenger car. However, over the past 10 years, there has been a 69 percent increase in SUV accidents resulting in pedestrian fatalities.
With larger frames, SUVs have a unique front-end design which is particularly threatening to pedestrians. In a pedestrian SUV crash, the grill can strike a pedestrian’s pelvis or chest at nearly the same time the vehicle’s bumper hits the lower extremities, increasing the force of the impact.
Free Legal Consultation – Boston Pedestrian Accident Attorneys
At Breakstone, White & Gluck, our pedestrian accident lawyers are committed to fighting for the rights of those injured or killed by a driver’s negligence or wrongdoing. We have represented clients after pedestrian accidents in Boston, Cambridge and throughout Massachusetts. Our attorneys have recovered significant awards, including:
- $7.1 million for our client was who hit by an MBTA bus in a South Boston crosswalk
- $2.15 million for the estate of our client who was hit and killed in a parking lot, which was not equipped with pedestrian safety bollards
- $1.375 million for our client who was hit by a speeding MBTA bus in Roxbury
If you or a family member has been injured in a pedestrian crash, learn your legal rights. For a free legal consultation, contact Breakstone, White & Gluck at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.
The Boston Herald has renewed concerns about pedestrian safety with a report that nine pedestrians were hit in Boston on the same day.
On Tuesday, January 17th, the city saw its worst day for pedestrian accidents since at least June 2015, according to a Herald analysis. The first pedestrian accident occurred at a McDonald’s restaurant on Massachusetts Avenue in the South End. This accident occurred shortly after 9:30 a.m. The other eight accidents occurred between 4:30 p.m. and about 9 p.m., in Dorchester, Jamaica Plain, Roxbury, Brighton and Hyde Park.
Pedestrian Accidents: The Numbers
Pedestrian accidents are a concern for everyone on the roads. In Massachusetts, we do a lot of walking. According to WalkBoston, more than 10 percent of all trips in Massachusetts are taken on foot (this is more than 40 percent greater than the national average).
When it comes to work, 12 percent of Massachusetts residents commute by walking. The number is higher in some communities. In Cambridge, 24 percent of residents walk to work.
According to the Boston Herald, pedestrian injuries are on the rise in Boston. In 2016, 904 pedestrians were injured in crashes, a 15 percent increase over 2015. Twelve pedestrians died in 2016, up from nine in 2015.
Mayor Marty Walsh has formed a Vision Zero task force with a goal of eliminating fatal and serious traffic fatalities in Boston by 2030. As part of the Vision Zero work, the city lowered its default speed limit from 30 mph to 25 mph in early January. The change does not impact state-owned roads. If you live or work in Boston, learn more about Boston’s speed limit change.
Pedestrian Safety Tips
Use Sidewalks. The sidewalk is the safest place for pedestrians. If no sidewalks are available, walk on the left side, against traffic so that drivers have a chance to make eye contact with you.
At Night. Carry a flashlight and wear a reflective safety vest if you walk at night or in the early morning.
Use Crosswalks and Traffic Signals. Use crosswalks and press the Walk button when available. Drivers are required to stop for you under Massachusetts law. Other cars are not allowed to pass the stopped vehicle.
Pay Attention to Safety Alerts. Winter is a harsh time for pedestrians. Pay attention to safety alerts and travel warnings from the State of Massachusetts, the MBTA, public schools, communities and your employers.
Beware of Snowbanks and Snowplows. Tall snowbanks obstruct the view between drivers and pedestrians. Wear a neon safety vest if you must walk in travel in these areas and pay attention to traffic. After a storm, expect to see snowplows on streets and working in parking lots. Take it slow.
Beware of Construction Areas. Areas such as North Station in Boston are now much harder for pedestrians to travel due to construction. Pay attention to notices about construction schedules and avoid building activity and construction workers whenever possible.
Watch for Cars Backing Up. Pedestrian accidents can happen when drivers neglect to check for pedestrians as they pull out of a parking space or a driveway. Watch out for these drivers and stop to let them back out.
From Breakstone, White & Gluck’s Experience
Our attorneys have over 100 years combined experience representing pedestrians who have been injured by the negligence of drivers and defective roadway conditions. Our law firm represented one pedestrian who was struck by a MBTA bus in a crosswalk in 2005. The pedestrian suffered serious injuries and required amputation of her right leg. The case went to trial and was appealed by the MBTA. The final award was $7.1 million for our client. See the re-enactment video we prepared for trial. It shows one way pedestrians can be put at serious risk.
Pedestrians need always be concerned with the cars and trucks they travel alongside, but winter is a time to practice extra caution to avoid pedestrian accidents. Bad weather and areas where sidewalks are not shoveled pose new threats to pedestrians during this time of year.
During and after snowstorms, drivers struggle with road conditions and visibility, increasing the risk for car accidents and pedestrian accidents. A driver’s ability to see pedestrians is often impaired by large snow piles and shorter hours of daylight. Pedestrian accidents are more likely in areas where sidewalks are not cleared and pedestrians are forced to walk in the road.
These factors mean pedestrians have to plan their travel carefully and dress appropriately. The Massachusetts pedestrian accident lawyers at Breakstone, White & Gluck offer these tips:
- Limit your walking where snowbanks are high. If you have to walk outside, avoid walking at night or during the snowfall, when there is less visibility.
- If you can, find out in advance whether the area you will walk has cleared sidewalks. This is important on busy traffic routes, back roads and highways. Plan accordingly.
- If you have to walk outside, carry a cell phone in case of emergency. But do not use it while walking in the roadway or crossing the street. To avoid a pedestrian accident, wait until you reach a sidewalk or a safe area in a parking lot. (Some states are considering banning cell phone use while crossing streets. Click here for a New York Times article on the subject). Even if it is not the law, it is good practice!
- Wear lightly or brightly colored clothing. Reflective neon clothing can provide benefits in both daylight and night hours by allowing drivers to see pedestrians sooner and adjust their driving if necessary. Some walkers use flashlights or even flashing lights to warn vehicles.
- If you see a commercial truck with snow on its roof, contact the company to report the driver. Snow on top of a vehicle can slide off and be thrown at other motor vehicles and pedestrians, causing car accidents and significant personal injuries. Look for the name of the company on the vehicle’s exterior or take note of its name. It’s best if you have at least part of the vehicle identification or license plate number. Several states have laws requiring drivers to clear snow from their vehicle’s roof.
- And if you are driving, take time to clear your car as well. This will increase visibility while you are driving, and prevent potential accidents for drivers and pedestrians around you.