Pedestrian Accident Overview

About 25% of the pedestrians who are injured sustain traumatic brain injury. About one-third involve injuries to the legs, and of this one-third, most are leg fractures. The average time spent in a hospital is two days, and with medical costs so high these days, that adds up to a significant amount. The leading cause of pedestrian injury is poor quality of walking surfaces. People tripping on an uneven or cracked sidewalk accounts for most injuries, followed by generally tripping or falling. Hazards also include stepping into holes, tripping over objects such as parking barriers, and avoidance of pets or wildlife.

In California, drivers of motor vehicles are required to yield to pedestrians crossing the street, whether they are in a marked crosswalk or not. In 2015, 5,376 people were killed in pedestrian/motor vehicle crashes, the most number of pedestrians killed since 1996. In addition, another estimated 70,000 were injured in the United States that year (NHTSA 2015 Data). To put this into perspective, that amounts to one person killed every 1.6 hours and injured every 7-1/2 minutes.

Pedestrians are particularly vulnerable to motor vehicles, even at slow speeds. In general, drivers need to make complete stops, not be driving while distracted and to not speed. As the rate of speed increases, so does the rate of injuries and death. Neighborhood residents can make sure the sidewalk in front of their houses is not blocked, and they can prune trees and bushes to keep visibility clear and allow people full access to the sidewalk.

Where and when do traffic/pedestrian crashes occur?

The 5,376 pedestrian fatalities in 2015 accounted for 15% of all traffic fatalities. Almost three-fourths of these fatalities happened in an urban setting. About the same amount occurred at non-intersections. Most (74%) occurred at night. The riskiest times are between 6 to 9 pm on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The NHTSA also discovered that 48% of the fatalities involved alcohol - 34% on the part of the pedestrians and 15% on the part of the drivers. 

 Children make up 21% of the nationwide fatalities in 2015. However, the NHTSA study did not take into account any incidences on private property, as they do not collect that data. We do know that more accidents happened to children in parking lots, driveways, and other private property. According to, the entity that provided the fact sheet to Congress, a child less than 4 years old is killed every other day in a "...non-traffic automobile incident." "Back-up" deaths have been increasing since the early 2000s. Children's inability to understand the danger of a moving vehicle, coupled with the larger size of vehicles (such as SUVs) contribute to this. Hopefully, when new data becomes available, these types of deaths will decrease because of the advent of new "back-up camera" technology on cars.

Seniors are also more likely to be struck by vehicles. There are issues of hearing, vision, cognition, and physical mobility. They are also more likely to walk than to do any other type of physical activity. While seniors may not sense oncoming danger, drivers also bear responsibility by not speeding or driving distractedly. Signal timing may be off, which is the responsibility of transportation engineers. In addition, sidewalks may be damaged or blocked, which is the responsibility of the city.

The NHTSA released another study in 2009 that found that hybrid electric vehicles were two times more likely to be involved in a pedestrian crash than a normal gasoline engine (NHTSA - Hybrid Cars (PDF), with the silence of the electric engine being a factor in these types of accidents. Recommendations are being made to add sound to these vehicles to avoid accidents such as this.