Articles Posted in Pedestrian Accidents

pedestrians-300x199Georgia pedestrian deaths have increased this past year. Although a recent pedestrian accident and injury was somewhat different in the way it occurred, every fatality is shocking and sad. The tragedy that unfolded early morning last week on I-75 stunned the Atlanta community. A woman who ran into highway traffic was fatally injured after several vehicles struck her. The closing of I-75 caused significant delays. Traffic coming in from the airport and elsewhere was impacted. Several drivers involved in this situation or nearby as witnesses, stopped after realizing what was happening. Other drivers tried to maneuver around the tragedy and additional car crashes began to occur.

A pedestrian on a major highway is a fairly rare situation. But, have you ever had the experience of entering a crosswalk and having a vehicle whiz by nearly hitting you or your family? Many of us have had this experience. The law in Georgia is quite clear. If a pedestrian has entered the crosswalk, there are specific circumstances in which he or she has the right of way. There are several laws that apply in pedestrian situations.

Georgia pedestrian laws which were amended several decades ago require drivers to “stop and stay stopped” for pedestrians under specific circumstances. Under the Official Code of Georgia Annotated section 40-6-91 drivers must stop for pedestrians who are within half the roadway or within one lane of their vehicle. It is not enough to slow down, the vehicle must stop. Even if other drivers are honking at you or going around your vehicle, you must stop. Drivers going around your vehicle are not permitted to do this. It is very very dangerous for those in the road or crosswalk. Pedestrians cannot simply leave a curb when a vehicle clearly cannot stop in time to allow them to cross. Pedestrians need to avoid these situations. Under the Official Code of Georgia Annotated section 40-6-92, even if a pedestrian is not in a cross walk, but has entered the road at an intersection, drivers must yield the right of way.

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iStock_000016030629XSmall-200x300As our readers know, we have been keeping an eye on developments in the driverless car technology. As the reality of these vehicles grows closer and closer, it is likely that eventually we will all encounter these vehicles on the road. But the technology is not yet perfected and accidents have happened. Uber has been testing driverless vehicles over the recent past in several cities. There is always a driver behind the wheel, but the vehicle is driving on its own. Uber halted the program after a tragic pedestrian crash in Arizona that took the life of a woman as she walked across the street at night. She was not in a crosswalk at the time she was struck. Although there was a driver behind the wheel of the vehicle, the driver did not apparently see her in time to stop from hitting her. Because of this tragedy, Uber has been prohibited from autonomous testing in Arizona. This accident and others will likely lead to more intervention on the legal and regulatory side and call for more regulatory management for driving safety and implementation of these autonomous systems.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has issued a report on this accident and has determined in interviews with Uber that the Volvo SUV actually did register the presence of something in the road six seconds prior to impact. Ironically, the vehicle’s automatic emergency braking system was not engaged at the time of the fatal crash. It would have been up to the driver to stop the vehicle. Uber has said it disengages the emergency braking system so that the car doesn’t drive erratically. That decision proved fatal in this situation.

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iStock_000016030629XSmall-200x300It is difficult to accept the fact that as pedestrians we must now “walk defensively.” Not so long ago, we generally walked with a sense of safety and assurance. These days, increasingly, we need to concentrate while we walk near traffic to avoid a pedestrian accident. It is with sorrow that we share the story of the untimely passing of a Bartow County high school student. But if, in sharing this story, one life is protected that at least helps make some good from this tragedy. In the morning hours one recent Saturday, the young man walked to his final band competition. He was struck and killed from behind by a passing vehicle. The vehicles bumper hit him. Although we do not know whether he was walking on the side of the road or not, regardless, he was hit and died at the scene. His school band did not compete in the competition as they mourn the loss of this beloved peer and talented AP student.

In memory of this young man, we want to share some safety information with all of our readers. Georgia’s Governor’s Office of Highway Safety has a list of safety tips for pedestrians. One very important suggestions is that, in situations in which there is no sidewalk, walk facing traffic as far away as possible from the road. Use crosswalks, and do what we teach our kids to do, look both ways before crossing. In fact, look both ways and then back to the left again before crossing.

Although the tragedy in Bartow County did not appear to involve a road crossing, as the young man was hit from behind, crossing the road can be very dangerous. Georgia law does provide some parameters for pedestrian safety. For example, Georgia law provides specific rules about when drivers must stop and remain stopped for pedestrians when they are in a crosswalk and have already entered that. Official Code of Georgia Annotated section 40-6-91 provides that drivers must stop and remain stopped to allow the pedestrian to safely cross. Passing around a vehicle that is stopped for a pedestrian is, of course, prohibited. But we have all seen this happen and we all know that it is very very dangerous and against the law.

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Pedestrian2The bad news is out. Fatal pedestrian accidents are on the rise. As healthy and often necessary walking can be, it also brings new and dangerous concerns when we are walking near vehicles of any kind. About four million people walk to work these days. That is good. It gets cars off the road and is healthy for most walkers. Some walkers must be on foot to work for economic reasons. Many of us remember the amazing man who walked 21 miles to and from his Detroit factory job. A GoFundMe bought him a car and raised significant cash for him. He had no choice but to walk that great distance to get to his job. Other pedestrians walk to work because they prefer it and still others walk for health.

We don’t want to avoid walking out of fear that we could be hurt in a debilitating accident or worse. Unfortunately, this past year has the dubious distinction of having the highest percentage increase of any year before in pedestrian fatalities both in Georgia and around the country. This disturbing trend has been on the upswing for several years. But in 2015 the rise is as much as ten percent according to the annual Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA). The GHSA issues its Spotlight on Highway Safety Report which is compiled using information provided by state highway safety agencies. The agencies are reporting higher numbers of pedestrian fatalities than in the history of record keeping which began in 1975.

The upward trend is clearly a major safety issue for Americans. Although Georgia is not at the very top of the list, every state with large urban centers has a greater likelihood of pedestrian fatality. The states with the highest number of pedestrian issues are New Mexico, Florida, Delaware, Nevada, Louisiana, South Carolina and Arizona. The situation is not hopeless, but steps must be taken to alleviate the upward trend. Continue reading

iStock_000016030629XSmallThis past August, within 24 hours, two separate incidents of Atlanta hit and run took the lives of two south Fulton County residents. Atlanta area residents were stunned by these stories, one of which involved a victim who was simply waiting for a bus. Similar tragedies around the country are on the rise. The hit and run phenomenon seems to have coincided with increased distracted driving, DUI and perhaps some other troubling aspects of modern life that have led to a lack of care or concern about others. Few stories of hit and run have shaken a community more than a tragedy recently occurred on the streets of Chester, South Carolina.

As reported in the Huffington Post, two siblings ages 11 and seven, were waiting at a bus stop when a car came towards them. The seven-year old a little girl was saved when her 11 year old brother saw the oncoming vehicle and pushed her out of harm’s way. In doing this, he himself was struck, sustaining catastrophic injuries. He was put on life support. After it was clear that there was no hope for him regaining consciousness or brain function, his mother made the painful decision to take her son off life support. She also made an incredibly generous and important decision to donate his organs so that someone else could live and to make this generosity a part of her boy’s legacy.

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Pedestrian3The concern about the dangers of walking — what used to be a relatively safe activity in America — is the subject of a recent report published by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA). Over the past few years, we have shared statistics on the alarming increase in pedestrian accidents that include serious injury and fatality. The increase in pedestrian accidents is said to be about 15% in only the past decade. The study and report not only quantifies this dangerous trend and frightening increase in these statistics, but includes recommendations on steps governmental entities can take to turn this around.

The report issued by the GHSA was funded by a private insurance carrier. The research looks at the problem and potential solutions including engineering and education. Not only is the effort intended to look at how walking can be made safer, it recognizes the fact that for many, walking is a lifestyle issue. The elderly may need to walk, rather than drive. As an Atlanta-area pedestrian accident lawyer, I know that those who cannot afford a car or prefer not to have one, should feel safe when they travel by foot. Going out on a simple errand in your neighborhood should not cause fear and dread. Pedestrians want to be assured that they aren’t in unnecessary danger of being struck by a motor vehicle which can lead to serious injury and fatality.

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Pedestrian3A quick visit to a licensing office at the Paulding County Courthouse turned harmful and deadly for pedestrians talking and walking to their cars. A 60-year old grandpa was having a conversation with a woman with twin infants when they were all struck by a vehicle that traveled in their walking path. Another pedestrian was so badly injured with critical injuries, she later passed away at a local hospital. The tragic pedestrian accident was the result of an elderly driver parking her vehicle and possibly hitting the accelerator rather than the brakes of her car. According to reports, witnesses said that after the woman struck the pedestrians, she was aware of what had happened and was shaken and upset. She is now charged with the Georgia crime of second-degree vehicular homicide.

This recent vehicle accident raises the question: why do drivers mistake the gas for the brake?  In general, this type of accident occurs in small areas, like parking lots where the driver is driving slowly and using a vehicle’s strong idle and brake to move the vehicle. The experts say that in this scenario, the brain says to the driver using idle and the brake … “the vehicle is moving forward so the other pedal must be the brake.” And after this mistake, the brain gets overloaded and once shock sets in the action is tough to reverse as our brains don’t function as well under that level of stress. Other factors for elderly drivers include a potential lack of feeling in the right leg which ends up hitting both pedals at the same time.

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Thumbnail image for iStock_000016030629XSmall.jpgOver the past several years we have posted readers about the dangers that face us all when we cross a street in America. Recently, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution sought information on pedestrian statistics for Georgia from our Department of Transportation. In its report we learned that in 2013, more deaths occurred on Georgia roads than in nearly two decades, despite a decline in pedestrian crashes. So, in other words, when vehicles and pedestrians collide, these crashes are proving more dangerous.

Not surprisingly, the Atlanta area was found to be the most dangerous for those on foot and a national study has placed Atlanta as the eighth most dangerous metro region for walkers. It used to be that taking a stroll was a relaxing and enjoyable way to get around. But these days, we must be extremely cautious when entering a roadway on foot. Those who are disabled in some way, are unable to walk on foot, or whose mobility depends on a motorized or hand-powered chair or have challenges with vision may be even more vulnerable.

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for iStock_000016030629XSmall.jpgEarlier this week a 19 year-old teen was hit by an Atlanta MARTA bus. She did not survive the injuries and passed away several days later at Grady Hospital. This accident has had a tragic end and our hearts and sympathies are with the family and friends of the deceased teen. This truly is a terribly sad time for them. Although the bus driver is unlikely to be charged in this tragedy, due to the early investigative report that the young woman was not crossing legally when the accident occurred, there are potential legal ramifications. Even if the driver is not charged criminally, this does not necessarily indicate the end of the legal options and the victim’s family could well file a civil suit against MARTA and others after further investigation. For example, under the Official Code of Georgia Annotated section 40-6-93 a driver must exercise due care not to strike a pedestrian regardless of the circumstances. This provision requires that if a driver observes a child or a confused or otherwise incapacitated pedestrian he or she must try to avoid colliding with that pedestrian. More investigation is needed to determine whether the bus driver violated this provision.

MARTA has issued a statement expressing sympathy to the family of this young woman. Since the accident just occurred, it might take some time for the public to understand just what happened in this tragic incident. Although in many instances, pedestrians have the right of way, that is not always the case. We have seen in recent years that more and more pedestrians are being struck by vehicles that are either traveling too fast or in which the driver is distracted. But there are some instances in which a pedestrian can be viewed by the law as having some responsibility for his or her injuries. Although the driver of a vehicle is responsible for exercising due care when in the presence of a pedestrian, there are limited situations in which the driver may not be held fully responsible for the injuries of a pedestrian.

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for iStock_000015148283XSmall.jpgThis past week, two teens lost their lives and one was injured after a tragic and senseless hit-and run crash. Before going further, we want to express our deepest sympathies and condolences to the families and the community that is directly affected by this tragedy. Loss of young life, any life, in such a senseless way is all the more difficult to bear and comprehend. The community is mourning the loss of these young lives which occurred as three friends walked on a spring day on a local sidewalk. The teens were struck by a vehicle in which the driver lost control. The facts are under investigation, but the initial understanding is that the driver was speeding in an attempt to catch another vehicle whose driver avoided paying for locksmith services that had been performed. Allegedly, when the non-paying driver attempted to leave without paying, the locksmith chased him. The locksmith allegedly lost control of his car, which ended up on the sidewalk where the teens were walking and struck them. He is alleged to have left the scene after hitting the teens.

It is difficult to comprehend, but this is the scenario that the authorities have provided for the arrests of the locksmith driver and the non-paying customer. The driver who hit the teens was arrested later still fleeing from responsibility. Both drivers have now been arrested and both drivers are now charged with several violations of Georgia law, including homicide by vehicle in the first degree which is found at Official Code of Georgia section 40-6-393 and several other related charges. The locksmith is also accused of hit and run causing serious injury.

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