Motor Vehicle Accidents Involving Pedestrians

When you think of accidents involving a motor vehicle, you probably picture a crash involving two cars, a car and a truck, or perhaps a car and a motorcycle. After all, these are some of the most common types of accidents on the road. pedestrian accident

However, did you know that in the United States, a motor vehicle accident involving a pedestrian occurs approximately once every hour?  According to the Governors Highway Safety Administration, between 2010 and 2020, pedestrian fatalities increased faster—by 54%--than all other types of motor vehicle fatalities, which have increased by only 13% during the same period.

Thousands of pedestrians are killed each year in motor vehicle accidents.  Sometimes the motor vehicle driver is at fault.  Other times the pedestrian may cause the accident. Regardless of who is at fault, however, most motor vehicle-pedestrian accidents can be avoided.

This article offers some alarming statistics on motor vehicle accidents involving pedestrians and some commonsense reminders for avoiding accidents with pedestrians. Whether you are driver of a motor vehicle on the road or a pedestrian crossing or walking near the street, please follow these simple tips to avoid an unfortunate and possibly fatal pedestrian accident.

Some Statistics on Pedestrian Accidents

Here are some startling statistics on pedestrian accidents:

  • In the United States, more than 7,000 pedestrians were killed in accidents involving a motor vehicle in 2020. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS), this number represents one out of every six persons who died in a motor vehicle accident. 
  • The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) estimates that an additional 1,400 pedestrians died in a non-traffic incident away from a roadway, which may include a driveway or parking lot. 
  • More than 100,000 other pedestrians who survived being struck by a motor vehicle were treated in hospital emergency rooms in the same year.
  • Seventy-one percent of pedestrians killed in 2020 were males, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
  • Compared to other states, both Missouri and Kansas rank in the top half of states with the highest pedestrian fatality rates, with Missouri at 2.08 deaths per 100,000 people (128 total in 2020) and Kansas at 1.58 fatalities per 100,000 people (46 total in 2020).
  • In 2021, the total number of pedestrian fatalities involving car crashes increased by 11.5% to 7,485—the most pedestrians killed in any one year.

As you might expect, pedestrian fatalities tend to occur most within two particular age groups—the elderly and children.

  • Elderly adults who are age 65 years and older account for approximately 20% of all pedestrian deaths.
  • One out of every five children under the age of 15 who die in car crashes are pedestrians, yet only 17% of persons over age 15 who are killed in motor vehicle accidents are pedestrians.
  • According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), pedestrian deaths among children younger than 15, where speeding was involved, has more than doubled since 2018, from 5.8% to 11.9%. \

Although every driver and pedestrian should know and follow the rules of the road, persons who care for elderly adults and children should be especially mindful to heed the safety tips included in this article.

What Are Some of the Causes of Pedestrian Accidents?

Most pedestrian accidents can be avoided when drivers and pedestrians are alert, exercise caution, and abide by the rules of the road. However, both drivers and pedestrians sometimes behave in unsafe ways. When they do, pedestrian accidents can occur.

There are certain risk factors that increase the likelihood of a pedestrian accident. These can apply to pedestrians and drivers alike.  These include:

Drugs and Alcohol

Pedestrian accidents may occur if either the pedestrian or the motor vehicle driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol.  Consuming any foreign substance as either a driver or pedestrian can:

  • Impair judgment
  • Dull the senses
  • Affect motor skills
  • Decrease coordination
  • Delay reaction time

An intoxicated driver can operate the vehicle recklessly or easily lose control of the vehicle, veering off the side of the road where a pedestrian may be walking. He or she may have impaired vision and may not see a traffic signal at an intersection or a pedestrian walking in a crosswalk.

An impaired pedestrian may easily stumble onto the roadway, cross the road at an inappropriate time or location, or simply not see an approaching car when they cross.

  • According to the NHTSA, alcohol consumption by either the driver or the pedestrian is involved in almost half of all crashes resulting in a pedestrian death.
  • In 13% of those crashes, the driver is legally intoxicated; the pedestrian is intoxicated in about 33% of those accidents.
  • According to IIHS data, 39% of intoxicated pedestrians age 16 and older are killed at night (9:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.) and 23% are killed during the day (6:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.). The difference may be attributable to greater alcohol consumption and darkness, both of which occur at night.

Drug use and alcohol consumption are a significant risk factor for pedestrian accidents. Both should be avoided by drivers and pedestrians alike.


Naturally, the faster a driver drives, the less likely they are to see and react to a pedestrian crossing the road, thereby increasing the likelihood of a pedestrian accident. When a vehicle does strike a pedestrian, a vehicle traveling at a higher rate of speed is more likely to inflict more severe injuries and increase the likelihood of a fatality. Similarly, the size and capacity of the motor vehicle can have an impact on the severity of a pedestrian’s injuries. For example, research provided by the Governors Highway Safety Administration reveals that sport utility vehicles (SUVs) tend to cause more severe injuries to the pedestrian after impact due to the greater size, weight, and structure of the vehicle.

According to the IIHS, 49 percent of pedestrian deaths in 2020 occurred in urban areas on roads with speed limits of 40 mph or less. In rural areas, only 17 percent of deaths occurred on roads with similar speed limits. The most pedestrian deaths (29%) occurred on roads for which the speed limit was over 55 mph.

Time and Location 

Other factors that may increase the likelihood of a pedestrian accident include the time and location of the incident. According to NHTSA data, most pedestrian traffic deaths (80%) occur in urban areas. More pedestrian deaths (76%) occur on the open road, where vehicles tend to drive at higher speeds, than at intersections (24%). Most pedestrian deaths (76%) occur when it is dark and there are poor lighting conditions.

The largest number of pedestrian deaths occur on Saturdays, and the majority of these deaths happen during periods with dark lighting conditions. The fewest number of nighttime deaths occur on Tuesday, but the number increases throughout the remainder of the week and peaks on Saturday.

Reckless or Distracted Driving

Reckless or distracted driving naturally increases the danger to drivers of motor vehicles on the road. However, reckless driving also is dangerous to pedestrians who may be crossing at a crosswalk, passing through an intersection, or simply walking along the roadway. A reckless or distracted driver can easily:

  • Miss a traffic signal

  • Ignore a caution or safety sign

  • Drift onto the side of the road

  • Fail to avoid children darting into the road

Because a driver always owes a duty of caution to others on the road, including pedestrians, it is important that drivers always drive alertly and without distraction, especially in the era of cell phones, ear buds, and handheld electronic devices.

Unsafe Pedestrian Environments

Some pedestrian accidents may not be the sole fault of the driver or the pedestrian. Often, a factor that significantly increases the risk to pedestrians is the condition of the roadway and its surrounding environment, especially in areas that have heavy pedestrian traffic. Many localities are sorely lacking in adequate safety measures for pedestrians. These can include common safeguards such as:

  • Clearly indicated crosswalks
  • Proper lighting
  • Visible signage

Drivers and pedestrians alike must be alert to properly adhere to any pedestrian safeguards that are provided but also must recognize that conditions are not always sufficient to provide effective warning. Ultimately, drivers are responsible for driving safely, adhering to traffic laws, and avoiding risk, and pedestrians are responsible for exercising caution, crossing at designated crosswalks, and obeying pedestrian traffic laws.

Top 10 Tips for Pedestrian Safety 

Safe driving on the road and cautious walking on sidewalks and at crosswalks might seem to be common sense. But pedestrian accident statistics demonstrate that often, common sense is lacking or ignored by both drivers and pedestrians. Here are ten reminders to heed when you are driving your car or walking on the road to help keep pedestrians safe.

Safety Tips for Pedestrians 

  • Try to avoid walking on the road. Always use sidewalks or designated walking lanes if possible. If a walking path is not provided, always walk as far on the shoulder of the road as possible and walk facing traffic.
  • Stay visible.  If walking at night or in dark conditions, carry a flashlight and wear reflective clothing, such as a reflective vest or coat with reflective markings.
  • Cross at designated areas.  Always cross the street at an intersection or designated crosswalk if possible. Be especially mindful for cars turning left or right at intersections.
  • Stay alert. Avoid distractions. Avoid any distractions when walking on or near the road or crossing the street. Using cell phones, electronic devices, ear buds, or headphones is a distraction. You need to hear car horns, approaching vehicles, and audible traffic signals. Having anything in or over your ears can limit your senses and provide a distraction.
  • Do not drink and walk.  Avoid walking if you have consumed drugs or alcohol. Even a small amount may impair your judgement, reaction time, and coordination.

Safety Tips for Drivers

  • Obey all traffic laws.  As a driver, your legal responsibility to other drivers extends to pedestrians. Always:
  • follow the rules of the road
  • exercise caution
  • avoid distractions
  • be alert for safety signs and signals
  • yield to pedestrians at intersections, crosswalks, parking lots, and driveways.
  • Exercise caution in poor conditions. Always use extra caution when driving in poor conditions, such as bad weather, poorly lit areas, and simple nighttime driving, all of which can make it difficult to spot pedestrians.
  • Do not speed and be prepared to stop.  Always obey the speed limit, especially in areas near crosswalks and intersections. Reduce your speed when approaching intersections or crosswalks and be prepared to stop if necessary.
  • Never pass other vehicles at a crosswalk. Always defer to other vehicles stopped at a crosswalk. A stopped vehicle is stopped for a reason. Another driver may see pedestrians crossing the road or children playing in the area that you cannot see.
  • NEVER DRINK AND DRIVE.  Never drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Period.

Be a Safe Pedestrian and Driver

 Drivers have a legal duty to other drivers on the road. That duty extends to pedestrians on or near the road as well. Pedestrians also owe a legal duty to drivers on the road and other pedestrians. Any violation of the rules of the road by either drivers or pedestrians may lead to a pedestrian accident and legal liability.

There are many safety risks to pedestrians on the road.  If you have been injured in a pedestrian accident, or if a loved one was killed as a result of being struck by a motor vehicle, please call the Kansas City, Missouri personal injury attorneys Foster Wallace, LLC. You may be entitled to compensation for your injuries and other damages if another party, including the driver of a motor vehicle, was at fault. The attorneys at Foster Wallace, LLC are experienced car accident attorneys and understand how the motor vehicle laws apply to pedestrians. We can help you:

  • Determine who was at fault in your accident
  • Collect relevant evidence in your case
  • Deal with the insurance companies
  • Determine the value of your damages
  • Negotiate your claim
  • Litigate your case, if necessary
  • Obtain maximum compensation for your injuries.


Michael Foster
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Kansas City Personal Injury Attorney
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