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Road Safety

Pedestrian Fatalities on the Rise in Washington State

Ladenburg Law   /   August 19, 2019

In 2010, Washington launched Target Zero, a plan that aims to have zero traffic fatalities by 2030. Yet, recent data show that pedestrian fatalities are on the rise.

Annual Safety Report Shows Increase in Pedestrian Fatalities

The recent statistics about pedestrian fatalities in Washington are sobering. Take a look at these findings from the Annual Safety Report (WSDOT):

  • Traffic deaths involving pedestrians have increased 42% from 2014 to 2018.
  • In 2018, 22% of all traffic fatalities in Washington were pedestrians and bicyclists.
  • Fifty-nine percent of fatal and serious injuries occur in low-income communities.

Washington ranks 34th in the country for traffic fatalities. However, the increase in fatalities and serious injuries is cause for concern.

Contributing Factors to Pedestrian Fatalities and Injuries

There are situations where collisions with pedestrians become more likely and more deadly. In other words, certain factors increase risks for pedestrians. Some of these include:

Distracted driving.
Distracted driving is the main contributing factor in 32% of pedestrian fatalities. In a collision, a distracted driver is more likely to kill a pedestrian than a drunk one. (We recently shared that distracted driving is the main cause of boating accidents.)

Pedestrian impairment.
We all know that drinking and driving is dangerous. But it’s also dangerous to cross the street while drunk. Intoxicated pedestrians make up 44% of fatalities.

Lack of infrastructure.
Many urban and low-income areas lack sidewalks, crosswalks, and mixed-use paths. Over half of all pedestrian fatalities and serious injuries happen when people cross streets without crosswalks.

Vehicle speed.
Most deaths and injuries occur on roads with posted speed limits of 30 mph or more. The greater the speed of the car, the greater the injury – or possibility of death.

Not surprisingly, most of these accidents happen in fall and winter months, and during dark/dusk hours.

Pedestrian Fatalities on the Rise

What is Washington doing to make walking safer?

The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) is working to improve pedestrian safety.

First, WSDOT is conducting a number of research studies. For instance, the University of Washington is currently working on a Pedestrian Risk assessment. The study is looking at collisions at both intersections and non-intersections. By identifying hotspots, WSDOT can make needed traffic changes.

Additionally, the State of Washington pledged $41 million to make safety improvements for pedestrians. Priority for the grant money is given to applications in low-income areas, where infrastructure is often lacking. These programs can make a real difference in their communities. For example, WSDOT evaluated results of projects completed between 2005 and 2015. They discovered a 43% decrease in walking- and biking-related crashes at projects sites.

Finally, Washington is creating new laws that focus on pedestrian safety. In the 2019 legislative session, two new Senate Bills were passed focused on pedestrian safety.

Safety Tips for Drivers and Pedestrians

Whether driving or walking, there are a few things we can do to make our roads safer for everyone. For instance, we can:

  • Follow the rules of the road. Drive the stated speed limit. Only cross at intersections and crosswalks. Yield to pedestrians.
  • Be safe when drinking. Drinking impairs your judgment and motor coordination. This is true whether you’re walking down the sidewalk or behind the wheel. Simply put, have a plan to get a ride or stay home when drinking.
  • Avoid distractions. This goes for both drivers and pedestrians! Pay attention to your surroundings – that text can wait. When walking, keep the volume low on your headphones so you can hear approaching cars.
  • Walkers: make yourself visible. Grab the safety vest or reflective gear if walking the dog in the early morning hours. Avoid wearing all dark colors at night. Remember, the more time drivers have to spot and adjust to you, the better.

It’s clear Washington is not on track to achieve it’s Target Zero goal. The good news is that measures are being put in place to change this situation. And, if we as drivers and pedestrians can do our part to share the roadways, we may help this even further.

We Can Help if You’ve been Injured

Have you been a victim in a car accident? Maybe you were a pedestrian injured by a distracted driver? If so, we’d love to talk to you. Please call the Ladenburg Law Injury Attorneys at 253-272-5226. We’ll provide you with a free consultation about your case.

Sources for this article:

WSDOT Gray Notebook, March 2019 (pdf)

Washington’s roads are becoming increasingly deadly for people who walk or bike, data show (The News Tribune, June 4, 2019)

Target Zero – Washington State Strategic Highway Plan 

Advancing Multimodal Safety through Pedestrian Risk Reduction (pdf)

Pedestrian Laws for the State of Washington – RCW 46.61.230 – 46.61.275

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