Pedestrian Accidents: When Walking Becomes Dangerous

Salt Lake City officials plan on installing a traffic light at one particularly dangerous intersection in the city. According to ABC 4, residents in the neighborhood surrounding the intersection have complained to officials about the dangers posed to pedestrians trying to cross the street; many telling the news channel about the near misses with speeding vehicles they or loved ones have experienced while using the crosswalk at the intersection.

The city plans on having the traffic light installed at the intersection by the end of the summer of 2012.

Too Late?

The installation of the traffic light at this intersection is too late for a local mother (Natalie Randall) and daughter (Ambrosia Amalatitoda), however. In March 2012, the two were hit while crossing the street in the crosswalk. Both were rushed to the hospital with severe injuries.

The Desert News reports that witnesses saw two cars stop for the mother and daughter, but a third car failed to stop and actually swerved, possibly to miss colliding with the two stopped vehicles, and hit the two walkers. Ambrosia Amalatitoda, who was six-years-old, died from head injuries caused by the pedestrian accident. Natalie Randall is expected to recover from her injuries.

Right-Of-Way and Construction Dangers

Many people are under the misconception that vehicles, due to their size and speed, have the right-of-way at all times, but this is incorrect. According to Utah law, pedestrians have the right-of-way when they are in a crosswalk, not vehicles. Every intersection in Utah is considered to have a crosswalk, whether the actual walking path is marked on the pavement or not. Further, Utah law states that drivers "shall exercise care to avoid colliding with a pedestrian," whether the pedestrian is in a crosswalk or not.

However, this does not mean that pedestrians just can step off the curb into a crosswalk and oncoming traffic and have cars yield them the right-of-way. Also, pedestrians are allowed to cross the street outside of the crosswalk, but are required to yield to cars when doing so.

Having the right-of-way, even at an intersection with a traffic light and "walk" signal, does not mean that crossing the street is safe.

Another safety risk faced by Utah's non-motorists is navigating through a construction zone. Construction projects are often aimed at increasing safety on our roadways and many of these projects may help pedestrians when complete. However, they are adding increased dangers and risks of injury throughout the lengthy construction period.

Two notable ongoing projects in Utah are the I-15 expansion through Utah County and the Spanish Fork aqueduct construction in Provo. In addition to the added congestion and site-related hazards, construction work is also destroying and displacing sidewalks and crossing areas throughout the project duration. This brings added risk to pedestrians who need those pathways to safely cross roadways and increases the chance of being involved in a pedestrian accident and suffering serious injuries.

Safety Tips

Because pedestrians are at a high risk of injury when involved in an accident with a car or truck, they need to watch out for their own safety. The Utah Department of Public Safety and Heads Up Utah offer the following safety tips for pedestrians:

  • Always look both ways before crossing the street, even if you have a "walk" signal
  • Do not assume a driver sees you just because you are using a crosswalk, continue to watch for vehicles that may not see you
  • When waiting to cross the street, do not stand in the street
  • Wear bright colored clothing during the day; at night, wear light colored or reflective clothing and carry a flashlight
  • Be on the lookout for vehicles entering and exiting driveways, alleys and parking lots
  • Walk on sidewalks when available and on the side of the road facing oncoming traffic when they are not

A driver also needs to do his or her part to keep pedestrians safe. Heads Up Utah offers drivers the following safety tips:

  • Slow down, especially near homes, parks and schools; the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, estimates that speed is the cause of 32 percent of fatal vehicle accidents
  • Yield to pedestrians in crosswalks, especially when making a turn at a green light
  • Stop at the "stop line" before the crosswalk
  • Stop before the sidewalk when exiting a driveway, parking lot or alley, pedestrians on a sidewalk have the right-of-way

When Injured ...

The injuries suffered by pedestrians in accidents with vehicles can be severe and include injuries to the head and neck, concussions and other brain traumas, broken bones and death. Any of these injuries can result in expensive medical and rehabilitation bills. By speaking with a Provo personal injury lawyer, you can learn of your options for recovering compensation to aid in paying for medical costs incurred because of a pedestrian accident in Utah.

In seeking to recover compensation through personal injury lawsuits, injured pedestrians, even if they had the right-of-way, may need to prove that the drivers who hit them were negligent. Further, if the driver who hit you is uninsured, an attorney can help you file an uninsured motorist claim with the insurance company.

Do not wait until you have recovered from the accident before exploring your legal rights. There is a statute of limitations for personal injury claims in Utah, so contact a personal injury attorney soon after the accident to ensure that your legal rights are protected.