Recent years have proven to be deadly for pedestrians throughout Maine. Last November, the Bangor Daily News published an article with an especially alarming title: ‘Maine sets 24-year record for pedestrian deaths in 2017.’
By November 2017 the Department of Transportation had already counted 18 vehicle-related pedestrian deaths, surpassing the 17 reported in 2016. Before the year was out, 21 people were killed while walking along or near Maine roads, making it the fifth deadliest year on record and the worst since 1994, when 22 people died.
A Department of Transportation representative said that November and December were the deadliest months for pedestrians, with eight out of the 17 fatalities reported in 2016 taking place during that period due to darker days and reduced visibility. He also referenced a 2015 study in which the DOT noted the following patterns:
- Although more pedestrian accidents take place in urban environments, the greater number of pedestrian deaths occur in rural areas, where people tend to drive at higher speeds.
- Only 20% of people die when hit by a car doing 25 mph, while 80% are killed when the car is doing 45 mph.
Safety is a Two-Way Street
The Maine Bureau of Highway Safety and the Maine Department of Transportation have responded to the growing number of pedestrian deaths by launching a campaign to reduce the death toll. Titled “Heads Up! Safety is a Two-Way Street,” its purpose is to educate both pedestrians and motorists of their shared responsibility in making the streets and roads of Maine safer.
After reviewing the circumstances of recent pedestrian deaths, the campaign organizers concluded that pedestrians and drivers shared a duty to reduce the rate of accidents. Each side appeared to place the onus on the other: pedestrians expected motorists to stop for them while drivers assumed that those on foot would move themselves out of harm’s way.
The campaign is calling for pedestrians to use marked crosswalks, wear high-visibility clothing after dark, and be alert at all times while drivers are encouraged to always watch for pedestrians and yield to them if an impasse occurs.
In addition to alerting the public about the dangers of inattention on the part of both motorists and pedestrians, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has provided $25,000 to the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety to be applied to special enforcement efforts across the state. The Maine Department of Transportation is also hosting public forums in 10 community clusters with the highest number of pedestrian-vehicle incidents to discuss possible infrastructure changes that could help, such as ground traffic lights.
These community clusters are (in order of incident frequency):
- Old Town/Orono
- Portland/South Portland
Common Pedestrian-Vehicle Accidents
In February a report by the Governors Highway Safety Association estimated that 5,984 pedestrians were struck and killed in 2017 in the U.S. Common accident types include:
- Crosswalk collisions, which occur when a vehicle does not give yield the right of way to a pedestrian in a crosswalk. Sometimes incidents occur because a crosswalk is not clearly marked.
- Accidents that happen when a driver loses control of his or her vehicle, often due to slippery roads and severe weather conditions.
- Backing up accidents, which happen when a vehicle backs up (often in a parking lot) and strikes the pedestrian.
- Vehicles turning left, which are three times more likely to strike a pedestrian because each party is looking in a different direction.
Most pedestrian injuries are located at the point of impact, the area of the body hit by the vehicle. Secondary injuries may occur, especially if the victim is thrown into a tree, wall, or other object. The outcome can range in severity from cuts, bruises, and torn ligaments to spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injury, paralysis, and death.
What’s the Bottom Line About Pedestrian Deaths?
If you have been injured in a pedestrian accident, reach out to the experienced pedestrian injury attorneys at Fales & Fales, P.A. Under Maine law, you may be entitled to compensation for losses associated with the collision. We are committed to helping our injured clients, so schedule a consultation by calling our office.