Pedestrians are among the most vulnerable individuals on public roads, having nothing to protect them from suffering serious injuries or death when they are involved in accidents with motor vehicles. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of pedestrian fatalities across the nation is steadily rising – with nearly 6,000 pedestrians killed in traffic accidents last year, and over 129,000 treated in emergency rooms for injuries. The CDC also reports pedestrians are roughly 1.5 times more like that occupants of motor vehicles to be killed in car accidents.
Although the statistics are alarming and risks severe, America has been notoriously sluggish in passing policies to regulate vehicle designs that can protect pedestrians. At a time when safety measures for vehicle passengers have been hailed for reducing injuries and deaths over the years – including seat belts, airbags, rear-impact protection, and crush-resistant vehicle roofs – little has been done to prioritize the protection of our most vulnerable roadway users. As other countries have made clear, the task is certainly not impossible.
One prime example of successful pedestrian safety policies is the marked effort of the European Union to make pedestrian safety a priority, particularly when it comes to vehicle design. In 2010, the EU created new auto safety standards based on recommendations from the United Nations. Some of the most notable standards include:
- Designing vehicles with higher engine hoods to reduce impact severity when a driver strikes a pedestrian and reduce risks of traumatic brain injuries.
- Mandates to improve mortality rates in pedestrian accidents, which have led to developments such as external airbags on vehicles.
- Requirements for crash tests to include front-end impacts involving pedestrians, including both adults and children.
While these and other regulations have helped EU countries successfully decrease rates of catastrophic injuries and fatalities in pedestrian accidents, the U.S. has still failed to act on implementing similar goals. This is despite agencies like the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration studying pedestrian safety regulations and their efficacy for years in the past, only to abandon the idea when pedestrian deaths briefly declined. However, those deaths soon increased, especially in light of new hazards, including distracted driving and cell phone use behind the wheel.
While pedestrian safety may be one of the last frontiers when it comes to vehicle safety, NHTSA and federal regulators have been hesitate to require automakers to take pedestrian safety into account when designing vehicles, as it relates closely to vehicle appearance and styling. Automakers who would be required to implement pedestrian safety changes, they believe, would be unwilling to change how their cars look – even if aesthetic changes make them safer and less likely to cause serious injuries or death.
With an administration that vehemently favors deregulation and maximizing corporate freedom, the prospects for change any time soon are not reassuring. Unfortunately, as with many issues involving corporations and the financial interests, profits often win out over people – even if it means those people being injured or killed in preventable ways.
Your Rights as an Injured Pedestrian
Whether designed with the best interests of pedestrians in mind or not, automobiles will always pose risks to those who walk and bike our streets – especially when drivers behind the wheels of those automobiles are negligent. When wrecks do occur, injured pedestrians have the right to seek compensation for their damages by taking legal action against a negligent driver, including those who failed to stop at intersections, failed to yield at turns, drove distracted, or operated their vehicles under the influence.
At Clark, Fountain, La Vista, Prather & Littky-Rubin, we know injured pedestrians face greater risks of suffering serious if not life-altering injuries, and that they have an elevated need to recover full compensation to cover medical expenses, lost wages, future needs, and more. As such, we are dedicated to leveraging the full extent of our insight and decades of collective experience to help victims and their families effectively navigate the personal injury claim process.
If you wish to discuss a possible case with a West Palm Beach attorney from our firm, contact us for a free case evaluation. We proudly serve accident victims throughout Palm Beach County and the state of Florida.