Do Pedestrian Accidents Increase When School Starts?

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Pedestrians are especially vulnerable to getting hit by automobiles, and the risk increases when there are more of them out and about on streets and sidewalks in school zones and neighborhoods. Their numbers increase when school is in session, with more students, teachers, and other staff members walking to and from school and in and out of the buildings. Other factors contribute to the problem as well, including changing weather conditions such as rain and wind, heavy rush hours that happen at the same times as school openings and closings, sun glare during these times of day, distractions, recklessness, and drivers who are not prepared for the influx of more pedestrians.

How Many Pedestrians Are Injured by Automobiles?

August is National Traffic Awareness Month and is an optimum time to think about traffic safety awareness. Even if a pedestrian is focused on their surroundings and takes the utmost care, a negligent driver can run into them in the blink of an eye. Sources such as The New York Times report that the numbers of pedestrian fatalities have increased with the pandemic, with record numbers of reckless driving incidents. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, car accidents led to 6,700 pedestrian fatalities in 2020, almost 300 more than in the previous year.

In 2021, there were 99 pedestrian deaths in New Mexico, compared with 81 in 2020. New Jersey, Texas, and Utah also reported increases in the numbers of these kinds of fatalities. In Maryland, close to 3,000 pedestrians become injured each year, and pedestrian fatalities account for 20 percent of all the traffic deaths in the state. Here are a few more sobering facts to consider:

  • A pedestrian who gets hit by a vehicle traveling 40 mph has an 85 percent chance of dying, and one who gets hit by a vehicle traveling 20 mph has a five percent of dying.
  • Pedestrians ages five through 15 are at the highest risk for pedestrian personal injury.
  • More than 30 percent of injured pedestrians are below the age of 15.
  • Three out of every four new vehicles are SUVs, vans, or trucks, which are larger and deadlier than smaller ones.
  • During the school year, students who are going to and from their schools are at considerably high risk. Young pedestrian accidents spike up in the morning and afternoon; 3:00 p.m. is the peak time for accidents involving pedestrians ages 18 and younger.
  • Approximately 25,000 children get injured every year in school zone accidents.
  • About 100 children lose their lives every year in school zone accidents.

Why Are School Zone Accidents Different from Other Pedestrian Accidents?

As many people know, school zones are busy hubs of activity at certain times of day and have posted lower speed limits and extra signage to alert drivers to proceed with extra caution. If the authority responsible for the signs or the school does not provide what is needed, they could be held responsible for a pedestrian accident; an example could be a malfunctioning traffic signal at the intersection closest to the school building. Otherwise, the accident could very well be linked to driver negligence.

It is not uncommon for people to speed near schools, but it is important to take note: A car driving 50 mph needs 424 feet to arrive at a complete stop, and one going 25 mph needs just 152 feet. Those lower speed limits are there for a reason, yet drivers often drive too fast in school zones.  Others drive while distracted, intoxicated, or act in other negligent ways in these areas. Keep in mind that there will also be teen drivers with permits or new licenses in the area at high schools. That lack of experience can be detrimental or even deadly to pedestrians.

School zone accidents can happen any day of the week: Monday through Friday when school is in session, and at night or weekends when there are events such as football games and school plays. Adults and children can be walking about, there can be a high number of moving cars and buses, and the lighting conditions can vary.

How Can I Protect My Children in School Zones?

Even though modern vehicles have advanced safety features such as rear-view cameras and lane-departure warnings, many drivers turn them off or substitute them for actual defensive driving. Those tools are meant to enhance driving safety, not to replace checking one’s rear-view mirror and other proactive steps by the driver. Parents can keep this mind when discussing traffic safety with their children, and the following topics are also good areas to cover:

  • Cross the street only at designated crosswalks or with crossing guards.
  • Look both ways before crossing, and never cross when traffic lights indicate to wait.
  • Never text while driving or walking; be aware of the surroundings.
  • Do not play around parked cars or traffic.
  • Young teen drivers should not drive with more than one other passenger, since groups of teens often distract one another.
  • If walking at night, wear brightly colored clothing.
  • Used marked crosswalks whenever possible and remember to look left-right-left before proceeding even if there is a traffic signal.
  • Stay on the sidewalk as much as possible. Otherwise, walk on the edge of the street in the direction that is facing the traffic.

Tips for Driving Safely in School Zones

Adult and teen drivers should always put on their seat belts before starting out and do their best to focus 100 percent on their driving when in school zones. Pedestrians and buses always have the right of way, and state laws require that drivers stop when those buses have their flashing red lights on and stop sign gates out; passing at that time is illegal. It is crucial to slow down in these zones as well, and in the neighborhoods in which the students live. If the school traffic coincides with your work commute, leave earlier or later, or find another route. You are also legally obligated to follow all the school zone signals, markings, and signs that you see; ignoring them could lead to an accident, injury, and/or pedestrian fatality.

Children who are walking or on their bicycles can be impulsive and might suddenly emerge from between two parked cars, jump out into an intersection, or even fall in the street; older students who are fooling around might push one of their friends right into the path of an incoming car. Many parents walk their youngsters to school or wait at bus stops with them and bring along dogs who can behave just as unpredictably. Therefore, it is so important to eliminate any distractions that take your eyes off the road. Put your cell phone on do not disturb and wait until you arrive at your destination to eat your breakfast, shave, or comb your hair.

What Happens after School Zone Accidents Occur?

A pedestrian who gets hit by a moving vehicle will likely need swift medical attention, so calling 911 is often the priority. School officials and law enforcement officers should eventually arrive at the scene, but the timing is not always dependable. It is important to get the driver’s contact information and to take as many photos of the scene as possible.  These incidents can be quite traumatic for younger students and their parents, and can also lead to significant injuries, medical bills, pain, suffering, and unfortunately fatalities.

Getting a police report is key for pedestrian vs. automobile accidents and can provide evidence should you need to make a claim or build a case against a negligent driver. Many of those who survive these kinds of accidents also reach out to car accident lawyers who can help them receive the damages for which they are entitled.

Baltimore Car Accident Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Represent Pedestrians Injured by Negligent Drivers

Student and adult pedestrians in school zones can be at high risk for getting hit by negligent drivers. The Baltimore car accident lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton are highly experienced in these kinds of cases and are available to help. We will be your advocate and will fight to obtain full and fair compensation for your injuries. Call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.

We have offices in Baltimore, Glen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, allowing us to represent clients in Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel CountyCarroll CountyHarford CountyHoward CountyMontgomery CountyPrince George’s CountyQueen Anne’s CountyMaryland’s Western CountiesSouthern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of CatonsvilleEssexHalethorpeMiddle RiverRosedale, Gwynn OakBrooklandvilleDundalkPikesvilleParkvilleNottinghamWindsor MillLuthervilleTimoniumSparrows PointRidgewood, and Elkridge.