Albany Pedestrian Injury Lawyer on Troy Car-Pedestrian Crash
If you look closely at the details of a crash in early March in which a car struck and severely injured a teenage girl in Troy, several of them stand out. For one thing, the driver was speeding, and carried the girl at least 50 feet before stopping. Also, sections of the sidewalk near the crash had uncleared snow and ice, which is one likely explanation for why the girl was walking in the road. The Troy Police ticketed the driver for speeding, but nothing more, and said the girl was partly at fault for the crash because she was in the roadway. Finally, a police spokesman, in a written statement, rejected the idea of placing speed bumps on the dangerous stretch of Eighth Street known for frequent speeding, because “they would obstruct plowing, regular free flow of traffic, emergency vehicle operation,” etc.
Statistics Show Pedestrian Fatalities On The Rise in US
Those details make this crash a textbook example of why public policy that stubbornly clings to last century’s street-design values, coupled with new realities of distracted driving, are making streets ever more dangerous for pedestrians and bicyclists—an alarming trend underscored by the most recent statistics. According to the national Governors Highway Safety Association, the number of pedestrian fatalities on U.S. roads in 2018 is projected at 6,277, to be the highest since 1990. That number also represents an increase of approximately 50 percent since pedestrian crash deaths fell to a modern low of just over 4,000 in 2009.
The number of bicyclists killed in crashes with automobiles dropped slightly in 2017 from the previous year, but it was still 25 percent higher than the low of 621 in 2010. If you were to look only at the statistics of crash deaths among automobile drivers and passengers, it would appear that our roads have been getting steadily safer over the last several years. But while driver/passenger fatalities are in decline, pedestrian and bicyclist deaths are heading alarmingly in the wrong direction.
Could that fact possibly correlate with the increase in smartphone use since about a decade ago, when bicycle and pedestrian fatalities began their precipitous climb?
Driver Distraction a Contributing Factor of Pedestrian & Bicyclist Crashes
Measuring driver distraction is an inexact science at best. There is widespread consensus that cell-phone distraction is underreported as a factor in crashes, so the evidence is mostly anecdotal, and the conclusions—however logical they sound—are speculative. Still, the dots do seem to connect. Safety experts have suggested that a driver trying to keep an eye on the road ahead while regularly glancing at a cell phone is more likely to see larger objects (cars and trucks) in his path, and less likely to notice pedestrians and bicyclists. And if you look at one of the details in the Troy crash—the fact that the victim was carried by the car for at least 50 feet—it does suggest the driver never saw her in the first place.
Troy Police Join History of Prioritizing Traffic Over Pedestrians
Looking at the police response to that crash, two things stand out: (1) the fact that the victim was considered partly at fault for being in the road, and (2) the fact that the police rejected one possible traffic-calming suggestion as unworkable, citing not only the needs of emergency vehicles and snowplows, but also “regular free flow of traffic.”
Blaming pedestrians for being in the road harkens back to the early 20th century, when motor vehicles first appeared in streets that previously had been mixed-use public spaces. Fighting back against the public perception that cars were a menace to pedestrians, automobile-industry lobbyists successfully pushed through car-friendly reforms, including laws governing the new crime of “jaywalking.” And rejecting traffic-calming initiatives to protect the “free flow of traffic”—even on city streets with a significant pedestrian presence—echoes a philosophy, prevalent in the last century but under fire today, that cities should be designed primarily for the convenience of motorists.
With so many drivers distracted by their phones, clinging to that philosophy seems more dangerous than ever.
Dreyer Boyajian LaMarche Safranko is headquartered in Albany, New York, with offices in Clifton Park, Saratoga Springs, and Plattsburgh, and represents clients in bicycle and pedestrian injury cases in state and federal courts throughout New York state. Call us at (518) 463-7784 or contact us.