The numbers for car-pedestrian collisions are sobering. From 2005 to 2009, there were 224,000 collisions involving pedestrians and single-passenger vehicles. Of those accidents, 13,193 were fatal. But even more sobering are the circumstances in which those pedestrians were hit.
Though you might imagine otherwise, the most common scenario in which a pedestrian and car collide is when a person is crossing the road and the vehicle is going straight — this is how it happens 95 percent of the time. In many of those cases (54 percent), nothing is obscuring the driver’s vision. And the driver usually fails to brake.
In fact, drivers who hit pedestrians while traveling straight hit the brakes only 13 percent of the time. And according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, fewer than 12 percent of all incidents involved a “dart-out,” i.e., someone appearing out of nowhere in the middle of the roadway.
Though the auto industry is working hard to reduce the possibility of such incidents, until such sci-fi-style technologies become standard — and even after they do — there’s the human factor to consider.
Here are the top 5 things you can do to keep pedestrians safe and your premiums down. When you’re driving, try to keep the following in mind:
1. Don’t drive distracted
The easiest thing you can do to avoid a pedestrian collision is to avoid distraction. That means putting the cell phone away and letting that call wait — yes, that goes for you Bluetooth users as well. (Studies show that even talking on a cell phone with a hands-free device affects driver response times.) It also means keeping your fiddling with the stereo to a minimum and letting that breakfast bagel wait till you’re in the office.
2. Use your turn signals
The controls are right there, next to the steering wheel. It takes no more than a flick of the wrist to turn them on. Pedestrians look for those signals just as much as your fellow drivers do. And like drivers, they rely on them to know your intentions, and when it’s safe to go.
3. Don’t California roll
Most often employed on back streets free of traffic control lights — exactly where the intrepid pedestrian is most vulnerable — this hurried driver’s tactic threatens pedestrians with much more than a gentle tap. Even at the generally slow speeds at which drivers use this technique, a collision is still going to hurt a pedestrian — and your car insurance premium.
4. Look both ways
We know your mom taught you this one: lesson number one when crossing the street. And like most things mom told you, it’s still important. Even if you’re turning onto a one-way street it pays to crane your neck right and left before you hit the gas. Doing so will ensure you see pedestrians approaching from either direction, and hopefully, avoid running them over.
5. Slow down
If you’re driving in an area with crosswalks that aren’t traffic-light-controlled, slow it down. There’s nothing more unnerving for a pedestrian than trying to cross the street as a driver approaches without visibly slowing down. Making it clear that you are slowing down is a great way to communicate that it’s safe to walk.
Keeping your fellow users of the road — pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists — in mind is the surest way to ensure safer streets and better insurance rates. So keep your eyes on the road, your right foot ready to brake, and your hands at 10 and 2 — and watch out for those on 2 legs as well as 4 wheels!