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Pedestrian Accident Highlights Safety Concern for School-Aged Children

impact3sm.jpgThe Bangor Daily news reports that a pedestrian was injured in Rockland on the afternoon of September 5th while navigating a cross walk on Route 1 near the Breakwater Marketplace. The gentleman was struck by a vehicle attempting a left turn onto the highway when exiting the shopping center parking lot. At last report, the accident was under investigation and the victim was being treated at Pen Bay Medical Center for a hip injury. This victim was lucky; he survived. In 2010 nearly 4,300 pedestrian deaths occurred in the U.S., according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association who estimates that pedestrian injuries happened every eight minutes; an estimate extrapolated from 70,000 reported traumatic events. As we know, it only takes a moment for our lives to be irrevocably changed.

Unprotected, pedestrians and cyclists are the most vulnerable individuals on the road and often suffer disproportionate injuries, or wrongful death from traffic accidents as a result. All too often, these injuries involve traumatic brain or spinal cord damage, coma, paralysis, loss of limb, or broken bones. The financial and emotional damage for the individual and their families can be immense.

Between the years of 2009 and 2010, the number of reported pedestrian injuries within the United States increased 19 percent prompting our lawmakers and public safety officials to more closely consider road safety for all users.

As summer gives way to fall, it occurred to us that the nature of pedestrian traffic would be changing as well. Our children will be commuting to school via foot, skateboard, and bicycle, during early morning light; a time of reduced visibility. In the very near future, their return trip or afternoon play will occur during daylights’ waning hours. Statistics show September, coinciding with the beginning of the school year, to be the most deadly calendar month for childhood pedestrian accidents. (Safekids.org). Children are particularly susceptible to these types of accidents because of their size, inexperience, and underdeveloped comprehension of velocity. In 2010, approximately 20 percent of the children ages 5-9 lost to traffic accidents were pedestrians, and 23 percent of all pedestrians injured in traffic accidents were less than 16 years old. (NHTS)

As parents and educators, we can reduce these occurrences, by helping our children understand traffic and pedestrian safety laws. The CDC suggests that parents take the time to walk the expected route with their child/children to evaluate available walkways and sidewalks and the neighborhoods they will be using. Check the road and surface conditions and take the time to discuss such things as crosswalk safety, possible visual impediments, approaching vehicle speeds and the role distractions can play in contributing to accidents. Establish an “emergency plan,” and ensure that your child has emergency contact information with them at all times. Physical aids such as reflective clothing, the use of appropriate safety gear (such as helmets), and light devices will also help escort our children safely along their way.

And if you’ve assumed while reading, that we are simply referring to grade and middle school children, you’re wrong. These “safety discussions” should also include our teenagers. Here’s why. Safekids.org reports “in the last five years, injuries among 16-19 year olds increased 25 percent over the previous five years. Today, 14-19 year olds account for 50 percent of child pedestrian injuries.” Can you guess as to one of the suspected causes of this disturbing new trend? You’ve got it! Cell phones, i.e., distraction, whether by motorist or pedestrian.

Everyone using our roadways shares a role in promoting community welfare and should know the “rules of the road”. Drivers must exercise a duty of care toward pedestrians. They must stay alert for non-vehicular traffic and slow down, change course, or stop, as necessary. There are regulations that govern pedestrian behavior as well. Pedestrians should walk, jog, or run on sidewalks if available. If it becomes necessary to utilize the roadway they should use the left side, facing traffic and always use a crosswalk when possible. Regardless of our mode of transportation, we should all pay attention to the task at hand.

While government and safety officials work to provide a more substantive survey methodology to address road safety issues for all of its users; subjects which have been previously undernoted, such as the classifications and extent of “distraction related incidents” and accurate reporting of pedestrian usage, behaviors, and needs will surely remain at the forefront of our attention as we continue to promote safe, livable communities.

In the meantime, regardless of age, we can each play a role in preventing unnecessary pedestrian injuries or deaths within our neighborhoods through an increased awareness and elevated sense of civic responsibility surrounding pedestrian safety concerns.

For more information regarding these issues refer to the following sites:

http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/statutes/29-a/title29-asec2056.html
http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/statutes/29-a/title29-Asec2063.html
http://www.walkinginfo.org/why/tips_walking-safely.cfm
http://www.saferoutesinfo.org/sites/default/files/tips_for_parents.pdf

http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00273
http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/ped_bike/pedforum/2012/spring/
http://www.safekids.org/our-work/news-press/press-releases/new-study-finds-teenagers-at.html
http://www.maine.gov/mdot/bikeped/safety/laws.shtml
NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts

Photo: Courtesy of safety.fhwa.gov