Metro Atlanta is not known for being especially pedestrian-friendly. Because of the vast distances between different areas and neighborhoods, using a car or public transportation is generally required to get around. Nonetheless, pedestrians are a constant presence on Atlanta’s roads. While taking a stroll around Midtown can be refreshing, it can also be deadly.
From 2010 to 2019, the number of pedestrians who were killed on the road rose almost 45 percent, culminating in 6,412 pedestrian fatalities in 2019. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck in early 2020, many experts believed traffic fatalities, including pedestrian deaths, would drop due to fewer drivers being on the road.
Unfortunately, this was not the case. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, 6,412 pedestrians were killed between January – December in 2019. But for 2020, that number was projected to increase to 6,721. Put another way, pedestrian fatalities per 1 billion vehicle miles traveled increased from 1.8 in 2019 to 2.2 in 2020, an increase of over 20 percent.
Further, just seven states account for over half of the projected total fatalities:
- California (1,026 deaths)
- Florida (729 deaths)
- Texas (723 deaths)
- Georgia (273 deaths)
- North Carolina (263 deaths)
- New York (235 deaths)
- Arizona (225 deaths)
At first, this data is confusing; after all, the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns should have meant fewer drivers, pedestrians, and others on the road, which logically would mean fewer fatalities. There are two main factors that may explain this discrepancy: larger vehicles and more reckless driving.
Regardless of the cause, if you or a loved one is injured or killed after being struck by a vehicle, you have legal options. At Scholle Law, our Atlanta pedestrian accident lawyers know how devastating these collisions can be. Our attorneys are here to help every step of the way, from helping you find medical treatment to negotiating with the insurance company – and even taking the insurance company to court.
Call us at (866) 592-1296 or contact us online today for a free, no-obligation consultation. Our team is here 24/7 to take your call, and you never have to pay a dime until we win.
Large Vehicles and Pedestrian Accidents
Over the past few decades, the automotive industry has moved away from sedans and other smaller vehicles and instead focused on SUVs, trucks, and other large vehicles. In fact, in 48 out of 50 states, the top-selling vehicles in 2021 were trucks and SUVs. Sedans and other cars were the top vehicle sold in only Florida and California that year.
The large vehicles are popular for a variety of reasons. They can more easily transport a family, they are helpful when moving cargo, and many people simply enjoy the feeling of driving a large truck or SUV. But as vehicles get larger and larger, they become deadlier.
It is common for drivers and automakers to say driving their truck or SUV is like “driving a tank”. Given the dimensions of these vehicles, the comparison is not much of an exaggeration. In fact, several trucks and SUVs are nearly as long, wide, and tall as tanks used in World War II (specifically, the American M4 Sherman, the German Panzer Mk III, and the Soviet T-34-85).
With such massive vehicles dominating the roads, pedestrian accidents are becoming deadlier. There are a few factors behind this increase. First, the sheer size of the vehicle makes it harder to keep control, especially at high speeds. Second, these vehicles may take longer to stop due to the laws of inertia that make it harder for large trucks and SUVs to stop quickly.
Finally, large vehicles are becoming taller, making it more difficult for drivers to see over their vehicle’s hood. As such, they may not be able to see pedestrians on the road. The height of these vehicles also affects the severity of injuries. In a pedestrian accident with a sedan, the victim will most likely suffer leg injuries. But when a truck or SUV is involved, a pedestrian may be struck in the head, neck, chest, or back, which can cause severe – and potentially fatal – injuries.
Empty Roads and Reckless Driving
The second major factor influencing the rise in pedestrian accidents is reckless driving. During the pandemic, especially early in 2020, roads were much less crowded than before. Rather than leading to fewer accidents, drivers put the “pedal to the metal” and went much faster than they normally would. In addition, many police departments were more wary of face-to-face contact, and therefore pulled fewer people over.
There are also psychological factors that have led to an increase in reckless driving. For one, drivers seem to be angrier behind the wheel. There is frustration with the pandemic and having to put oneself at risk every time they are on the road. According to Dr. David Spiegel, director of Stanford Medical School’s Center on Stress and Health, drivers are also dealing with “salience saturation.” Essentially, people have been so inundated with fear of COVID-19 that they feel they can ignore other threats on the road.
Dr. Spiegel also referenced social disengagement as a cause of reckless driving. This essentially means we have been deprived of social contact, which is crucial for mental and physical health. When social disengagement and salience saturation combine, it is not uncommon for drivers’ ability to gauge risks to be hindered, unintentionally leading to more dangerous driving. Many drivers go so far as to flat out ignore the rules of the road, feeling that these rules are suspended during the pandemic.
Tips for Walking Safely in Atlanta
While larger vehicles and reckless driving have made pedestrian accidents more common and dangerous in Georgia, you can still walk around Atlanta safely. Follow these tips from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to be a safer pedestrian:
- Follow all signs, signals, and rules of the road.
- Stay on the sidewalk wherever possible; if there is no sidewalk, walk facing traffic as far to the left of the road as you can.
- Use crosswalks if they are available and look for cars coming from all directions, including vehicles that are turning.
- If there is no crosswalk, wait for an opening in traffic long enough that you can cross safely. Make sure to cross in a well-lit area.
- Be on the lookout for cars coming out of garages and parking lots.
- Do not drink or do drugs before walking, as they can impair your judgement and focus.
If you have been struck by a vehicle while you were walking, you may be entitled to compensation. The driver’s insurance company will do all they can to lay blame on the pedestrian to avoid paying any kind of settlement. If they do offer a settlement, it will most likely be a lower amount than what you actually deserve.
For over 20 years, the attorneys at Scholle Law have achieved success against insurance companies to get our clients the compensation they are owed. We have the expertise to successfully negotiate with insurers to help our clients get paid quickly. If the insurance company refuses to negotiate or offers a low settlement, our skilled lawyers will build a strong case on your behalf and fight for your rights in court.