In very simple terms, it isn't a fair fight. Cars weigh approximately 4,000 pounds, and the average American man around 195 pounds and average American woman around 165. Cars top out at over 100 miles per hour, and the very fastest human has been clocked at around 27 miles per hour. In a collision between a person and a car, speaking bluntly, the car is likely to "win." For this reason, and many others, we have a set of rules designed to keep pedestrians safe. The vulnerability of walkers is also one reason we are proud to serve as your Panama City pedestrian injury law firm. We represent the injured, and we also work to prevent pedestrian injury. Both goals are facilitated by information about previous accident trends.
A pedestrian accident on Monday June 10 left a visitor from Arkansas in serious condition at Panama City's Bay Medical Center. Northwest Florida Daily News reports that the accident occurred on Scenic Gulf Drive in the area east of Ellis Road. At approximately 8:20 p.m., 60-year-old pedestrian Thomas A. Chipman Jr. was crossing the road, heading south. According to the Florida Highway Patrol, Chipman was within a marked crosswalk when he was hit by a 2013 Mercedes that was heading east. The Mercedes, which sustained $2,800 in damages, was driven by Gale Linster, a 78-year-old from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. An investigation was ongoing at the time of the article, although authorities do not believe alcohol was a factor.
A 2005 Federal Highway Administration ("FHWA") study examined the impact of marked crosswalks in uncontrolled locations. "Uncontrolled locations" refers to crosswalks that are not located at a stop sign or traffic signal (i.e. the incident above would not be included in the study). Researchers compared 1,000 sample marked crosswalks with 1,000 unmarked comparison sites. They found no significant differences in the rate of pedestrian crashes at the marked and unmarked crossings on two-lane roads.
In other words, marked crosswalks alone (i.e. without other safety devices) made no difference to pedestrian safety on two-lane roads. The same result held on multilane roads with traffic volume less than 12,000 vehicles per day. However, and this is the most interesting result, on multi-lane roads with a volume of traffic over 12,000 vehicles/day, there was a higher pedestrian crash rate in the crosswalk samples than the unmarked comparison sites. This grows to be a significantly higher rate of pedestrian crashes in the crosswalk samples where the high volume multi-lane road also has a raised median.
It is hard to know the precise cause of these results. The study authors note that crosswalks may be installed because the public has already noted an unusual crash rate at the location (even if comparison sites appeared comparable). Additionally, the presence of a crosswalk may make more pedestrians choose that location instead of other comparable locations, making it the most travelled crossing for some distance. This is especially true with children and older pedestrians, groups that (the study also showed) are more likely to be crosswalk crash victims. A final proposed explanation is that pedestrians take less care at a crosswalk (i.e. by less likely to fully scan for cars).
Of course, the study authors do not suggest giving up on pedestrian safety. Items shown to improve pedestrian safety that can be added to crosswalks include: Safety/Refugee islands; Pedestrian and General traffic signals; Curb extensions to reduce crossing distance; Adequate lighting; and Traffic calming devices.
Our team finds this research interesting and favors continued research to help improve safety through city planning. As a Northwest Florida pedestrian injury law firm, we are certain about one thing: no matter what safety devices are put in place, the driver is always the final key. Traffic safety devices only work to help ensure that the "ultimate safety device," the driver behind the wheel, is doing his/her job, paying attention to the road and travelling at a speed appropriate for the conditions present. Of course, pedestrians must also exercise care, regardless of how safe the crossing appears.
Our firm represents injured pedestrians and family members of pedestrians who have died due to driver neglect. Call to arrange a free consultation with Attorney Pittman, a pedestrian lawyer for Panama City and surrounding areas.