California car accidents: safety tips for pedestrians and bicyclists

Pedestrians and cyclists are particularly vulnerable to harm in traffic accidents.

Of course, a motor vehicle driver has the legal duty not to drive negligently, recklessly or illegally in ways that could cause harm to others. For obvious reasons, pedestrians and bicyclists are at higher risk of serious injury or death than are people in other vehicles in a wreck.

That being said, both pedestrians and bicyclists can take measures to increase safety and decrease the chances of being struck by cars or trucks.

Pedestrian safety

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides some eye-opening statistics about pedestrians struck in traffic:

  • Every 24 hours an average of 445 people will be seen in emergency rooms for injuries from traffic accidents.
  • Every two hours an average of one pedestrian will die as a result of a motor vehicle crash.
  • In 2012, almost 5,000 pedestrians died in traffic and about 76,000 were injured.
  • Males, children, teens and young adults are at higher risk.
  • Pedestrian death rates from car accidents increase with age.

Some tips for pedestrians to avoid dangerous contact with vehicles:

  • Use special caution at intersections and crosswalks.
  • Do not forget to stop and look both ways before stepping off the curb or attempting a road crossing.
  • If you are not sure if you can walk fast enough to cross in front of a vehicle, wait and do not attempt it.
  • Wear reflective clothes and carry a light when walking at dawn or dusk, or after dark.
  • Be careful not to walk while intoxicated from alcohol, drugs or medication.
  • Try to cross in crosswalks or at intersections.
  • Stay on the sidewalk if one is available; otherwise walk on the road's shoulder facing traffic (according to the CDC).
  • Children should follow any safety procedures put in place by schools or law enforcement to stay safer while walking.

Bicycle safety

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gathered data about bicycles (and other kinds of nonmotorized cycles, together called pedalcyclists) in motor vehicle accidents in 2013:

  • There were 743 pedalcyclist fatalities (average age 44) in car accidents, about two percent of all traffic-related deaths that year.
  • About 48,000 cyclists (average age 32) were injured in crashes with vehicles.
  • Almost 70 percent of pedalcyclist deaths that year were in urban areas.
  • Alcohol was involved in about 35 percent of these crashes, either by the vehicle driver or the cyclist.
  • More than half of the fatal bike-vehicle collisions happened between 3 p.m. and midnight.
  • The vast majority of bikers injured or killed were male.

Safety tips for bicyclists:

  • Wear a helmet.
  • Keep your bike in good condition and your tires properly inflated.
  • Slow down (or do not bike) in wet, icy, snowy or foggy conditions.
  • Watch out for people opening driver-side doors of parked cars.
  • Approach every intersection with caution, especially when vehicles are turning.
  • Understand the rules of the road and follow them.
  • Avoid riding at night, but use proper lights and reflectors, and wear reflective clothing, if you do.
  • Wear bright clothes during daytime rides.
  • Do not bike while under the influence of alcohol, drugs or medication.
  • Do not bike while fatigued; you are more likely to make an error in judgment.
  • Observe traffic signs and signals.

Our founding attorney, Scott J. Corwin, has more than 25 years of experience in representing accident victims injured in all forms of bicycle accidents, in the Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside, Orange, San Diego, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties and throughout the state of California.