Pedestrian Accidents Caused by Drunk Drivers
When vehicles and pedestrians collide, the pedestrian is always the loser. Compared to soft-skinned pedestrians, cars and other motor vehicles are like tanks – practically impervious to harm in a collision between the two, but capable of dealing out severe damage. Small wonder that pedestrian deaths are up to historical levels even while total traffic deaths are on the decline. The question is, why is that so? The reasons are complicated, but part of the answer seems to involve one of the great villains of traffic deaths – alcohol.Alcohol is a Major Factor in Traffic Deaths
Alcohol-related impairment accounted for 10,497 traffic deaths in 2016, 28 percent of all traffic-related deaths that year. Alcohol-impaired drivers were responsible for 17 percent of the 1,233 traffic fatalities of children 14 years old and under in 2016. In that same year, more than 1 million people were arrested for driving under the influence of narcotics or alcohol. Drivers impaired by drugs other than alcohol – including both legal and illegal drugs – were involved with another 16 percent of all motor vehicle accidents in 2016. Clearly, drug- and alcohol-impaired driving are problems when it comes to traffic accidents. The problem is no less severe whether you are talking about motor vehicle accidents or motor vehicle-pedestrian accidents.Pedestrian Traffic Deaths are on the Rise
While traffic-accident fatalities overall are on the decline, the same is not true for pedestrian traffic deaths. There were nearly 5,400 pedestrians killed in traffic accidents in 2015, with an additional 70,000 injured. The number of pedestrian deaths was up nearly 10 percent in 2015 over the year before. Pedestrians accounted for 15 percent of all traffic-accident deaths in 2015, as well as 3 percent of traffic-related injuries. While overall traffic fatalities declined almost 18 percent from 2006 through 2015, pedestrian traffic deaths rose 12 percent over the same period. Why?
Various sources have attributed the rise in pedestrian deaths in the face of the decline in overall traffic deaths in different ways. One national magazine blamed the proliferation of smartphones and the tendency of people – drivers and pedestrians alike – to focus on their phones to the exclusion of paying attention to what they actually are doing, which is walking or driving. This argument makes sense and probably has validity. However, another national magazine suggests that the rise in the use of smartphones and the inordinate amount of time people spend looking at them are factors, but alcohol cannot be ruled out as a significant factor.Alcohol-Impaired Drivers are a Significant Cause of Pedestrian Traffic Deaths
Federal statistics show that in 2016, nearly half of all pedestrian fatalities involve someone, driver or pedestrian, with a blood alcohol level of at least .08 percent, the legal limit for being under the influence of alcohol. More than a third of all traffic accidents resulting in a pedestrian fatality involved a pedestrian whose blood alcohol level was at or above the legal limit defining under the influence. Another 15 percent involved a driver who was legally impaired, with a blood alcohol level of .08 percent or more. Police did not always include pedestrian blood alcohol level as a cause of the accident or as a contributing factor, but it seems readily apparent that a person with a blood alcohol content at that level would be impaired to the point where judgment and reaction time were potentially not at a level necessary to avoid an accident.
The elephant in the room is the 15 percent of drivers involved in traffic accidents resulting in pedestrian fatalities who were legally impaired. It makes no sense to blame the victim if the person who ultimately caused the death was impaired by alcohol.
Further, the Governors’ Highway Safety Association, while taking pains to avoid blaming recent legislative changes regarding marijuana use, notes that states that have passed laws regarding decriminalization or legalization of recreational marijuana use have mostly seen increases in pedestrian traffic deaths, stating:
“Without making a direct correlation or claiming a definitive link, more recent factors contributing to the increase in pedestrian fatalities might include the growing number of state and local governments that have decriminalized the recreational use of marijuana, which can impair judgment and reaction time for all road users, and the increasing use of smartphones, which can be a significant source of distraction regardless of travel mode.”
The GHSA notes that in the seven states and the District of Columbia that legalized recreational marijuana use, pedestrian traffic deaths were up more than 16 percent in the first half of 2017 compared to the same period in 2016. All other states saw a decline of nearly 6 percent in pedestrian traffic deaths over the same period. At least one major newspaper has made the same observation.Pedestrian Traffic Deaths are a Major Concern in Georgia
In 2015, Georgia ranked 13th in pedestrian traffic fatalities per 100,000 population, placing the state solidly in the upper one-fourth of states in pedestrian traffic fatalities. Nationally, three-quarters of pedestrian traffic fatalities happened in urban areas, and nearly three-quarters occurred away from intersections. Three-quarters of pedestrian traffic fatalities happened at night.
Nearly one in seven pedestrian deaths involve an alcohol-impaired driver. Given the significant nationwide effort to combat vehicular accidents involving alcohol-impaired drivers, it makes no sense to turn a blind eye toward such traffic accidents involving pedestrians. If you have been involved in such an accident as a pedestrian, you should consult an attorney to see what your rights are.Contact an Atlanta Accident Attorney
If you or a loved one have suffered injuries as a pedestrian in a traffic accident involving an alcohol-impaired driver, you should consult with an attorney to see what your options for recovering damages are. Contact the attorneys at Slappey & Sadd for a free consultation to discuss your case by calling (404) 255-6677. Our attorneys serve the entire state of Georgia, including Smyrna, Decatur, and Marietta. You also can reach us through our online contact form.