What Are the Common Causes of Pedestrian Fatalities?

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  • Written By: Anna B. Smith
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 20 October 2019
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Some common causes of pedestrian fatalities include crossing at an improper location in the road, intoxication, and poor lighting conditions. Pedestrian fatalities can occur when one or more automobiles hit individuals who are walking close to roadways, killing them. The majority of accidents in which this type of situation occurs tend to involve only one motor vehicle, and are often considered the fault of the pedestrian killed. A small number of these accidents are attributed to the drivers of the vehicles for reasons such as driving recklessly or being inattentive to the road.

Individuals who choose to cross the road at either an intersection where there is no crosswalk, or do not cross at an intersection at all, comprise the largest group of pedestrians killed by motor vehicles. These individuals are often not paying attention to oncoming traffic in the roadway, and may attempt to dart between vehicles in order to cross. Pedestrians may also be prone to step in front of vehicles if they are talking while crossing, eating, or playing.


The use of alcohol by either the driver or the pedestrian involved in the accident accounts for a significant number of pedestrian fatalities. In the majority of crashes in which alcohol played a determining factor, the pedestrian who was killed tested positive for a high blood alcohol level. Though some of the accidents are caused by an intoxicated driver, the number of these particular crashes tends to total less than half of those in which the pedestrian was intoxicated. Most police departments define intoxication as a person with a blood alcohol limit of 0.01 grams per deciliter or greater, or 0.08%.

Lighting conditions can play a significant role in pedestrian fatalities. Many recorded accidents in which a pedestrian death occurred take place between 6 pm and midnight. This leads traffic police officers to believe that some accidents are caused by the driver's inability to see the pedestrian. The likelihood of an individual to be killed by a moving vehicle in dark or semi-dark conditions tends to be compounded when that person is intoxicated and crossing the road without a crosswalk.

The majority of these types of crashes are caused by the pedestrian involved in the accident, however, some crashes are due to driver negligence. A driver being inattentive due to reasons like talking or texting on a cell phone, looking at the car's dash display, or looking away from the road, can lead to a pedestrian fatality. If the driver is driving erratically, he may be likely to stray from his given lane, fail to yield the right of way, or drive too fast during inclement weather conditions, which are also common causes of pedestrian fatalities.


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