Pedestrians in Motor Vehicle Accidents

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November 13, 2012
Edward Smith

In 2010, 4,280 people were killed in motor vehicle vs. pedestrian accidents per year. This is a decrease from 1995; however, more than 70,000 people were injured in 2010, which is only 14,000 less than in 1995. These represent those incidents that were recorded by the police. It is well known that many people seen in the emergency room for a pedestrian injury aren’t reported to the police. The cost per year of treating children involved in pedestrian injuries was $5.2 billion USD per year.

With all these injuries, one might wonder whether walking is more dangerous than other modes of travel. Pedestrians result in more than 13 percent of fatalities in only 10.9 percent of trips. Transportation officials don’t know how long people walk or how often they cross the street. This determines how long they are exposed to motor vehicle traffic. There is clearly some risk associated with being a pedestrian even though walking is considered healthy for you. Not walking has been associated with heart attacks and strokes. These are much more common than the number of people struck by motor vehicles while walking.

The drop in motor vehicle deaths by pedestrians has gone down so it seems as though walking is getting safer but it isn’t clear where people are walking compared to 15 years ago and how far they are walking. The reduction in pedestrian crashes could mean that fewer people are walking or that there have been improvements in education and behavior around walking near traffic. The top states for pedestrian fatalities included Florida, California, Texas and New York. They account for 41 percent of pedestrian fatalities and only 5 percent of car accident fatalities. Half of all accidents with pedestrians happened on Friday, Saturday and Sunday; 70 percent occurred between 4 pm and 4 am. Among young pedestrian fatalities (less than 16 years of age), the fatalities occurred between 3-7 pm most of the time.

One study looked at the areas of injury of pedestrians struck by motor vehicles. The people were studied over a 10 year period of time. Injury severity scores were looked at. During this time, 5.800 people were looked at. Nineteen percent were fourteen years old or less, while 64 percent were 15-55 years of age, 7 percent were 55-65 years of age, and 9 percent were older than 65 years of age. About 7.7 percent of these patients died. A greater percentage of the elderly died when compared to younger people. Severe trauma was found in 11 percent, 19 percent, 24 percent and 37 percent respectively. Critically injured people amounted to 2 percent, 3.9 percent, 6 percent and 14 percent, respectively.

The incidence of serious head and serious chest trauma went up with age. Solid organ damage and hollow viscus injuries were the same in all populations. Spinal injuries worsened with increasing age and were as high as 8.5 percent in the elderly populations. Adults tended to get more pelvic fractures and fractures of the tibia and fibula were higher in adults. Femur fractures were higher in young people.

Researchers were able to describe the injuries sustained by the various populations and felt that age played a big role in what kinds of injuries a patient had.