So far this year, Utah has seen more auto-pedestrian accidents than any other year in recent memory, as reported by KSL News. In March alone, eleven people across the state were killed after being hit by a car. As the number of pedestrian accidents climbs, safety and prevention are more important than ever.
The Utah Department of Transportation is looking to increase pedestrian safety in the state by working with education groups like Zero Fatalities. By teaching the public about traffic laws and safety tips for both drivers and pedestrians, UDOT hopes to make Utah streets safer for walking and jogging.
The State of Pedestrian Accidents in Utah
Over the past several years, Utah has seen a significant jump in auto-pedestrian accidents. More pedestrians suffered serious injuries from accidents in 2021 than in any year in the past decade. 2022 is on pace to surpass last year’s numbers with 20 pedestrian deaths in the first three months of the year alone.
Utah, particularly the Salt Lake City metro area, has seen considerable population growth in the last several years, and is continuing to grow. With more vehicles on the road, car crashes are more likely to happen. It will take the combined efforts of motorists, pedestrians, lawmakers, and city planners to keep Utahans safe on the road.
Contributing Factors to Auto-Pedestrian Accidents in Utah
As auto-pedestrian accidents become more frequent, it is more important than ever to understand the causes behind them. Knowing the conditions that lead to accidents can help drivers and pedestrians prevent injury and death on Utah roads.
Drivers who are distracted on their phones are more likely to be involved in accidents. This is also true of pedestrians—a person looking down at their phone may unexpectedly walk into traffic. It is vital that both motorists and pedestrians are focused on their surroundings to avoid accidents.
A driver who is under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a danger to everyone on the road, especially pedestrians. In an auto-pedestrian crash, the pedestrian is far more vulnerable than the motorist or their passengers. An impaired driver may run red lights or fail to yield to people in crosswalks. If a driver appears to be under the influence, pedestrians should use extreme caution.
Drivers may have a difficult time seeing pedestrians in dark or foggy conditions. When walking after dark, pedestrians should wear reflective clothing, carry a flashlight, and cross the street at well-lit intersections whenever possible. Drivers should be extra aware when driving at night– pedestrians may be hard to see when walking on the side of the roadway.
Around 12% of Utah pedestrian accidents each year are caused by a pedestrian illegally crossing the street. Jaywalking is against the law and can be incredibly dangerous. Pedestrians should cross at crosswalks whenever possible.
Where Pedestrian Accidents Are Most Likely to Occur
Pedestrians should always take care when walking on or near roadways, but some situations are especially dangerous. The Utah Department of Public Safety compiled the following statistics regarding where pedestrian accidents occur most often:
- Around 47% of pedestrian accidents happen at crosswalks
- Nearly one-third of accidents occur when a driver is turning
- The most dangerous time of day for pedestrians is between 6:00 pm and 11:00 pm
- More walkers are hit on State Street than anywhere else in Salt Lake City
Pedestrian Safety Tips
Each year, nearly half of auto-pedestrian accidents happen through no fault of the pedestrian. However, by following simple safety guidelines, walkers and joggers can increase their likelihood of making it to their destination unharmed.
Make eye contact with motorists when crossing: Before stepping into the street, pedestrians should be sure that drivers see them and are going to let them cross. If it does not appear that the driver of an oncoming vehicle has noticed them, walkers and joggers should wait until they are sure it is safe to cross.
Obey signs and signals: Pedestrians should cross the street at marked crosswalks or at street corners, which are typically unmarked crosswalks. If the intersection is ruled by stoplights, no one should cross the street until the light indicates that it is safe to do so.
Use the sidewalk: Sidewalks and walking paths are safer than the shoulder of the road. If there is no sidewalk available, pedestrians should use the shoulder and walk against traffic.
Stay alert: Walkers should avoid distractions when walking on or near roadways. Cell phones, books, and headphones may prevent pedestrians from seeing or hearing nearby motor vehicles. Bicyclists also give audible warnings when overtaking pedestrians, so it is important that walkers can hear what is going on around them.
Be visible: When walking or jogging at night, pedestrians should wear bright, reflective clothing. Headlamps or flashlights can provide an extra layer of visibility.
Be predictable: Utah law states that pedestrians may not create a hazard by abruptly entering the path of a vehicle. Walkers should avoid making sudden or erratic moves that a motorist may not be anticipating.
Driver Safety Tips
Motorists have just as much responsibility as pedestrians in preventing car accidents. In order to keep everyone safe, drivers should keep the following guidelines in mind when traveling on Utah roads:
Watch for pedestrians: Motorists should always expect to encounter walkers and joggers at intersections and along the side of the road. In residential areas, children may dart out into the street unexpectedly. Drivers need to be on the lookout for pedestrians at all times.
Avoid distractions: Texting, eating, and fiddling with the radio all interfere with a driver’s ability to focus on the road. Taking one’s eyes off the road for a few seconds can be a life and death decision.
Know the traffic laws: Pedestrians have the right-of-way while in crosswalks. Motorists should always stop before the white line at an intersection, as there may already be a pedestrian crossing the street. When turning, drivers must always look both ways to check for pedestrians.
Slow down: When hit at 20 miles per hour, 9 out of 10 pedestrians survive an accident. At 40 miles per hour, only 1 out of 10 pedestrians survive. Motorists should use extra caution in neighborhoods and school zones.
How Does Pedestrian Safety in Utah Compare to Other States?
Each year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) compiles and publishes data regarding traffic accidents throughout the country. Pedestrian fatality rates are ranked by state.
The good news is that the state of Utah consistently ranks well for pedestrian safety when compared to other states. Unfortunately, over the last decade, Utah has averaged just under 40 pedestrian deaths per year. Considering most pedestrian accidents are entirely preventable, that number is still tragically high.
Ways to Improve Pedestrian Safety
As the population of Salt Lake City grows, many people are becoming more dependent on public transit, cycling, or walking to get around. It also is becoming more dangerous to walk through the city as the roads get busier. Citizen safety groups in Salt Lake and elsewhere are calling for changes in infrastructure to make large cities more pedestrian-friendly.
Give pedestrians a head start
Some cities give pedestrians a walk signal 3-7 seconds before cars traveling in the same direction get a green light. This allows the walkers to get well into the crosswalk before cars are given a chance to turn. It increases the chances that drivers will see the pedestrians before driving through the intersection.
Allow left turns on green arrows only
When pedestrians are permitted to cross the street at the same time drivers are given a solid green light for a left turn, it increases the chances the pedestrians will be hit. The driver may only be watching oncoming traffic for a chance to turn, and fail to see the person in the crosswalk. At intersections where left turns are only allowed on green arrows, pedestrians will not be in the intersection at the same time a driver is trying to turn.
Skybridges allow for more direct routes over highways, and prevent pedestrians from having to cross many intersections while trying to get from point A to point B. They decrease the number of times pedestrians and motor vehicles must occupy the same space.
Make crosswalks more visible
Crosswalks with flashing lights make crossing the street safer both at night and during the day. Crosswalk illuminators also work to increase visibility throughout the entire crosswalk, not just at the ends.
How to Get Help if You’ve Been Injured in a Pedestrian Accident
If you’ve been injured in an auto-pedestrian accident, you are likely in pain, and you may be unsure of your next steps. These accidents can be devastating, both physically and emotionally. In order to make the recovery process go as smoothly as possible, follow these steps after your accident:
Report the accident to the police
Make sure your accident is documented. Be sure to get the name, address, and insurance information of the driver who hit you. Get the contact information of witnesses to the accident as well.
Seek medical care
If your injuries are serious, you may be treated by EMTs at the scene of the accident or transported to the hospital. If no ambulance is called, you should still see a doctor as soon as you can, even if you believe you were not hurt. You may have injuries you are unaware of. Be cognizant of any new symptoms or pain you experience after your accident, and make sure they are attended to by a medical provider.
Contact your insurance provider
Report the accident to your insurance company. Your no-fault insurance coverage will pay for your immediate medical bills up to a certain limit, depending on your policy. If you file a claim against the at-fault party and receive a settlement, this will be used to repay your insurance provider.
Call a pedestrian accident attorney
If you were injured due to a motorist’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation. A personal injury law firm can help you build your case and negotiate a settlement. The Advocates are experienced injury attorneys in Utah, and are ready to help you make the fullest recovery possible. Call today for a free consultation. You deserve an Advocate!