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Why Are Children at Risk for Pedestrian Accident Injuries and Deaths?

Written by Ankin Law Office

Distracted drivers, speeding, drunk or drugged drivers, and the lack of safety measures on roadways, in parking lots, and at intersections are putting children at risk for pedestrian accident injuries and deaths. On average, two children are injured in pedestrian accidents every hour. Of the more than 15,000 children under 19 who are struck by motor vehicles each year, over 400 will lose their lives.

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Pedestrian Accident Attorneys and Safety Advocates Demand Safer Streets in Chicago

Recent fatalities in Chicago have inspired pedestrian accident attorneys, area residents, and advocates in the city to push harder for pedestrian safety. Preliminary data gathered by the Governor’s Highway Safety Association (GHSA) projects that drivers struck and killed more than 7,400 pedestrians in the United States in 2021 alone. Children under the age of 15 are more likely to be injured or killed in a pedestrian accident, and roughly one in five pedestrian fatalities are children in that age group. Without adequate measures to improve pedestrian safety, the death toll will only continue to rise. 

On June 12, 2022, more than 300 pedestrian accident attorneys, families, elected officials, and bicycle safety advocates took to the streets to demand better infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists in Chicago. The event, “Walk and Roll for Safe Streets”, was organized after two toddlers, Raphael “Rafi” Cardenas and Elizabeth “Lily” Grace Shambrook, were hit and killed by motorists earlier in the month. Just hours after the rally, a driver struck and killed a 75-year-old man who was crossing Irving Park Road in North Center. According to the police, the driver did not have insurance. 

So far in 2022, Chicago drivers have hit and killed 15 pedestrians and 4 cyclists in the city. 

Where Do Most Child Pedestrian Accidents Happen?

Although children may be hit by cars in a variety of situations, child pedestrian accident statistics indicate that most child pedestrian accidents happen near school zones and bus stops, around parks and play areas, in or near driveways, in parking lots, and in residential areas where there are a lot of parked cars. Nearly half of child pedestrian accidents that injure or kill children between the ages of 1 and 4 are backover accidents that occur when a vehicle is backing out of a driveway. 

Backover Accidents Involving Children

Backover accidents take the lives of roughly 50 children every week. To help reduce the number of backover accidents that injure or kill children, congress recently enacted the Cameron Gulbransen Act. The Act, was named for a 2-year-old who was killed when an SUV backed over him because the vehicle’s blind spot made it virtually impossible for the driver to see the child. The Act requires the U.S. Department of Transportation to adopt new safety standards and implement the use of technology to help prevent backover injuries and deaths. 

Child Pedestrian Accidents in Crosswalks

Approximately 30% of Chicago pedestrian accidents cause fatalities to happen on marked crosswalks. Although city officials have made numerous improvements to crosswalks in the city, including the installation of timed countdown crossing signals, pedestrian refuge islands, and in-road crosswalk signs, their efforts may not be enough. Large intersections that are designed to accommodate massive amounts of motor vehicle traffic remain difficult for pedestrians to cross, and smaller intersections pose risks when negligent drivers fail to watch for foot traffic. 

Pedestrian Accident Injuries in School Zones

Teen pedestrian safety statistics reveal that school zones are not as safe as they could be. Speeding drivers, unsafer pick-up and drop-off locations, driver and pedestrian distractions, unmarked crosswalks, and other inadequate safety measures contribute to pedestrian accidents that injure or kill thousands of children every year. In fact, studies reveal that:

  • An alarming 27% of high school students who were observed were distracted by mobile devices when crossing the street before or after school.
  • Just 4 out of 10 school zones that were observed had speed limits of 20 mph. 
  • Only 70% of school crossings were marked crosswalks.
  • Disturbingly, 83% of middle school children and 76% of high school students were observed engaging in one or more unsafe behaviors while crossing the street.
  • Approximately 10% of drivers were distracted by handheld devices while dropping off or picking up children.
  • Roughly 1 in 3 drivers performed other unsafe behaviors in school zones, including double-parking, parking in crosswalks, and speeding. 

How to Improve Pedestrian Safety and Reduce Child Pedestrian Accidents in Chicago

It is important that pedestrians, drivers, and the community as a whole come together to help improve pedestrian safety and reduce the number of pedestrian accidents in Chicago. By identifying the reasons why children are at risk for pedestrian accident injuries and deaths, raising awareness about pedestrian safety, and implementing infrastructure improvements for pedestrians, we can combat the rising death toll for walkers in Chicagoland.

Pedestrian Safety Tips for Kids

The following tips can enable you to help keep your children safe from pedestrian accident injuries. 

  • Avoid allowing young children to cross the street by themselves.
  • Only allow children to cross streets at corners or crosswalks, and make sure they follow traffic signals.
  • Teach your children to look both ways before crossing the street, and continue watching for traffic until they have reached the other side.
  • Do not allow children to play in or near driveways or in parking lots.
  • Teach your children to maintain a safety zone of 10 feet when walking near a school bus.
  • Provide your children with reflective clothing and flashlights when walking at dawn or dusk.

Pedestrian Safety Tips for Drivers

Drivers in Illinois owe a duty of care to child pedestrians. Following these tips can help drivers avoid hitting a person who is walking. 

  • Watch for pedestrians at all times, everywhere. Use extra caution when driving near playgrounds, parks, and schools. 
  • Keep an eye out for kids running out from between parked cars in residential areas. 
  • Inspect your surroundings before backing out of driveways and parking spaces. Do not depend on back-up cameras or sensors. 
  • Avoid driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. 
  • Slow down and be prepared to stop when approaching crosswalks and intersections.
  • Follow the speed limit, especially in areas where children may be present.

How Communities Can Reduce the Number of Pedestrian Accidents

Child pedestrian safety is the responsibility of everyone in the community. There are numerous ways that Chicagoland residents, public officials, and law enforcement can work together to put the brakes on pedestrian deaths

In recent years, the CDOT has implemented various infrastructure improvements in our city to help keep pedestrians safe. With dedicated funding of $10 million from Mayor Lightfoot’s Chicago Works infrastructure plan, CDOT created a plan to complete approximately 400 pedestrian safety projects. Such projects include, but are not limited to:

  • Building pedestrian refuge islands
  • Creating curb extensions, or “bump-outs”, to shorten crossing distances
  • Repairing and replacing sidewalks, bike lanes, and ADA-accessible crosswalk ramps
  • Installing traffic signals at crosswalks

The role of our cities in upholding pedestrian and cyclist safety doesn’t end there, however. Lowering speed limits on major roadways and city streets, enforcing speed limits and other traffic laws, using automatic speed cameras, addressing bike lane obstructions, and creating pedestrianized, non-motor vehicle traffic areas and pedestrian safety zones can also help improve Chicago’s walkability. 

Common Child Pedestrian Accident Injuries

Young children often suffer more severe injuries than older adults when they are hit by a car. Because of their smaller size, motor vehicles often strike children in the chest, head, and abdominal area. In many cases, the injuries children suffer in pedestrian accidents are catastrophic injuries that are permanently disabling, or even deadly. The most common types of injuries pedestrian accident lawyers in Chicago see include:

Why Are Children at a Higher Risk of Getting Hit By Motor Vehicles?

Children are more likely than adults to be hit by cars for various reasons. Perhaps the most significant is their lack of judgment. Children, especially those who are younger, cannot accurately judge a motor vehicle’s distance and speed. In many cases, they are unable to realize the time it may take for the car or truck to stop. Additionally, their sense of danger is not fully formed. Finally, a child’s peripheral vision is not fully developed until later in life, so they may not see a vehicle approaching until it’s too late. 

For younger children, the risk of becoming injured or killed in a pedestrian accident is increased because they are more likely to run out into the road without looking while chasing after a ball, pet, or another child. 

Although the risk of getting hit by a car decreases as children get older, teens are also at risk. This is because teens are more susceptible to distractions while they are walking, and technology puts pedestrians at risk. They may lose track of their surroundings while they text, talk on their cellphones, post on social media, or even interact with friends. 

Who Is At Fault in Child Pedestrian Accidents?

The NHTSA reports that pedestrian accidents are most often caused by negligent drivers. Driver behaviors that are frequently linked to child pedestrian accident injuries include, but are not limited to:

Distracted Driving

Texting, posting on social media, taking selfies, using infotainment systems, and talking on cellphones remain common behaviors among drivers in the United States despite strict laws against using handheld devices behind the wheel. Distracting behaviors like these lead to serious, and sometimes deadly, car accidents. The CDC reports that roughly one in five people who are killed in crashes involving distracted drivers are not passengers in vehicles. They are people who are walking, riding a bicycle, or otherwise outside of a car. 

Larger Motor Vehicles On the Road

Bigger motor vehicles are increasing in popularity in the United States. Although these vehicles are notoriously safer for passengers, they cause increased safety concerns for pedestrians. The GHSA notes that larger vehicles, like pickup trucks and SUVs, are “inherently more dangerous to pedestrians” than smaller vehicles. The largest passenger vehicles on the market weigh approximately 7,000 pounds. As simple physics tells us, the larger and heavier a vehicle is, the more significant the impact. Additionally, these larger vehicles sit up higher than compact cars and sedans, making it more difficult for drivers to see pedestrians and cyclists. As a result, larger vehicles are more likely to hit pedestrians when turning or passing through intersections.

Impaired Driving

Drunk drivers and those who are impaired by drugs pose a significant risk to pedestrians. When drivers are impaired, their reaction times are slower, they are less likely to be aware of nearby pedestrians, and sometimes, they even black out while behind the wheel. Drunk driving accidents take the lives of approximately 28 people per day. Nearly half of all pedestrian accidents that end in death involve drunk or drugged driving. 

Carelessness

In many cases, pedestrian accidents are caused by pure carelessness on the part of the driver. Motorists often fail to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians in crosswalks, neglect to use their turn signals, fail to pay attention to traffic signals, speed through intersections, and don’t adjust their speed for adverse weather conditions.

Categories: Auto Accidents