Traffic lights and pedestrian crossing sign in a city.

Where Do Pedestrian Accidents Commonly Occur?

Pedestrian Accidents Common Occurrence?

Being hit by a car is bad enough when you’re in another car. It’s worse when you’re a pedestrian and have nothing to protect you from thousands of pounds of metal, and you’re likely to strike concrete and asphalt when you’re flung away by the car.

Pedestrian versus car accidents don’t end well for the pedestrian. Take care and pay attention whenever you’re on foot and surrounded by cars. Some places are more dangerous than others, but which ones? And why are those more than others?

City Versus Rural

According to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), urban areas are far more dangerous than rural areas. Not surprisingly, cities where people drive the most also have the highest pedestrian accident rates. Cities where people drive and walk most are the highest of all: New York, Los Angeles, and Phoenix have the highest rates of pedestrian fatalities.

City streets tend to be designed for easy traffic movement. Roads are wide and straight and encourage fast driving. They have few obstructions and no safe zones for pedestrian crossings, except marked crosswalks.

In rural areas, pedestrian accidents occur in locations with fewer sidewalks, forcing people to walk on the roadway. This brings the discussion to the next major area of pedestrian accidents.

Streets, Parking Lots, and Crosswalks

Contrary to the old joke, most pedestrian accidents don’t happen in crosswalks. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), about 18% of pedestrian accidents happen in marked and unmarked crosswalks. Although that’s significant, almost three-quarters of accidents happen mid-block, along the sides of roads, or in the roadway.

Long stretches of roadway, especially without crosswalks, tempt pedestrians to cross mid-block. The aptly named “suicide lane” or turn lane, common in many small cities and towns, is often used by foot traffic as an island for crossing. This is discouraged and illegal in many places because these center lanes are intended as turn and emergency lanes. A pedestrian in the middle of heavy traffic is hard to spot and unexpected.

Although parking lots account for few pedestrian fatalities, they host many unreported minor bumps and annoyances. As everyone who has walked through a parking lot knows, drivers are most distracted when searching for an open parking space. The low fatality rates are only due to the equally low speeds of cars in most parking lots.

The Dark

Wherever you are walking, if you can’t be seen, you’re more likely to be hit by a car. The GHSA study found that regardless of the location, more than 75% of all pedestrian accidents happen after dark, with only 20% taking place in daylight hours. 

Walking at night or in dark conditions is especially hazardous, especially when combined with the street and city conditions already mentioned. In areas with many cars and few streetlights, pedestrians are invisible to speeding cars and distracted drivers. Mid-block crossings are not only unexpected but almost unseeable. Rural roads without sidewalks put pedestrians into the traffic lane when drivers can’t see them.

Other Dangerous Places

Crosswalks, school zones, and other regulated areas are often sites of accidents because drivers see signs yet fail to stop. Surveys have found that drivers often run stop signs because they see the sign but don’t see other cars or pedestrians. Unfortunately, pedestrians are often there, but the driver doesn’t see them until it is too late.

Any of these locations becomes more hazardous in combination with other factors.

  • Weather: Rain, snow, ice, and fog all obscure drivers’ vision and make pedestrians more difficult to see. Bad weather also makes foot traffic difficult since slippery pavement leads to falls.
  • Distracted driving: When drivers aren’t paying attention, they have trouble seeing other cars, let alone people. In darkness, on narrow roads, or in a crowded parking lot, a driver trying to answer a text message is bound to hit something.
  • Impaired driving: As we near the holiday season, intoxicated drivers become more common. Sidewalks and even storefronts are hazardous spots when combined with intoxicated drivers. Pedestrians should use extra care during holidays.

Pedestrians often relax in regulated zones precisely because there are more signs, crossing guards, or lights. Don’t do this. Pay extra attention when there are flashing lights and signs because drivers have more things competing for their attention than just people on foot.

Protecting Yourself

You can take a few proactive steps to avoid becoming a pedestrian accident statistic.

  • Wear bright-colored reflective clothing, even during daylight hours. Never assume drivers can see you. Studies have shown that drivers see bright colors better than dark, even in the daytime.
  • Always use marked crosswalks. Wherever possible, use crosswalks with signals. In rural areas, try to cross at intersections rather than mid-block.
  • Avoid walking in the roadway. If there is no sidewalk, walk facing traffic rather than with it.
  • Don’t engage in distracted walking, which is as dangerous as distracted driving. You should be able to hear traffic sounds around you.

Drivers are responsible for their actions, but so are pedestrians. Pay attention to your surroundings and walk carefully.

If You Are a Pedestrian Accident Victim

In most places, pedestrians have the right of way. California recently decriminalized jaywalking, so even crossing in the middle of the block is not a crime. That is not much consolation if an SUV hits you and have serious injuries. You will still need to prove the driver was at fault.

A pedestrian accident lawyer needs the same information that any personal injury attorney needs. If possible, you should get the driver’s name and insurance information. If the driver has left the scene, which is unfortunately common in pedestrian accidents, try to get the license number and a description of the car. 

Get immediate medical attention, even if you don’t think you’re seriously hurt. A minor bump in a parking lot can cause more severe injuries than you expect. Your attorney needs a medical report to begin processing a claim.

Don’t let fear of pedestrian accidents prevent you from walking. It’s good for you and the environment. But be cautious and remember that cars are bigger than you are. 


Pedestrian Traffic Fatalities By State Governors Highway Safety Association, 2019

Traffic Safety Facts National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2017

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