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Staying safe as a Washington pedestrian


Pedestrian deaths rose sharply across America in 2016.

Recently released preliminary data shows that pedestrian fatalities spiked across the country in 2016. The Governors’ Highway Safety Administration’s preliminary report reveals a 14 percent estimated increase in deadly pedestrian accidents nationwide from 2015 to 2016. Thankfully, Washington has managed to resist the trend, and actually saw a projected 10 percent decrease in pedestrian deaths last year.

The lower numbers of pedestrian fatalities across our state are likely due in no small part to the Washington Department of Transportation’s Pedestrian Safety initiatives, an example of which is the “Target Zero Statewide Traffic Safety Plan.” The “Target Zero” campaign is designed to make sharing the roads safer for pedestrians and bicyclists alike. It includes a multi-pronged approach that combines a public education program, increased law enforcement presence, better city planning, fundraising goals and monitoring of progress against key measures.

Safety tips for walkers and drivers

Though the WDOT’s measures seem to have already had an impact on the number of pedestrian accidents in the state, the fact remains that whenever walkers, bicyclists and motor vehicles share the road, there is the potential for disaster. Pedestrians and bicyclists are largely unprotected against the elements and against the impact of a moving automobile should an accident occur.

There are safety measures which, if taken by walkers, will help decrease the chances of injuries occurring. Likewise, drivers can also behave in a way that will lower the risk for injury-causing or fatal pedestrian accidents.

For safety reasons, pedestrians should:

  • Follow pedestrian safety laws – these include walking against the flow of traffic when there isn’t a sidewalk or pathway, obeying traffic control signals and using crosswalks.
  • Wear brightly colored or reflective clothing, particularly at twilight and dusk, and during the overnight hours, when visibility is the poorest; also carry a flashlight to illuminate your path (this makes you more visible and alerts you to upcoming obstacles or hazards)
  • Avoid walking while distracted by electronic devices like cellphones, text messaging, tablets, social media or mp3 players; staying focused on one of these items can cause you to inadvertently step into traffic or slow your progress when crossing the street
  • Use sidewalks, walking paths and marked crosswalks whenever they are available
  • Look both ways before crossing the street, taking care to not get into a car’s blind spot or dart out in between parked cars

For their part, drivers should:

  • Take extra caution in areas of high pedestrian traffic – these include school zones, churches, playgrounds, parks, retail centers and residential areas
  • Yield to pedestrians in crosswalks
  • Put away their electronics to focus on the road
  • Avoid speeding
  • Obey traffic signs and signals, particularly around intersections where pedestrians cross
  • Never drive after drinking – alcohol dulls the senses and lowers response time; an accident you may have been able to avoid if sober could result when you are intoxicated

The myriad circumstances under which pedestrian accidents occur mean that you could be involved in one in spite of your most conscientious efforts to remain safe. If you or someone you love have been injured in a Washington pedestrian accident, you may have legal options. For more information, and to discuss your case in a free initial consultation, contact the Bellevue office of The LePley Law Firm. Call them toll-free at 866-918-0909 or send an email today.