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Pedestrian Deaths from Traffic on the Rise in North Carolina


When it comes to crossing the street in North Carolina, make sure you look both ways and proceed with caution.

Every year, an estimated 3,000 pedestrians are hit by a motor vehicle attempting to cross the street in North Carolina. Roughly 800 bicyclists suffer the same fate. A staggering 15% of all traffic-related deaths in North Carolina are pedestrians, making it the 7th highest state in the country for pedestrian deaths. Recent statistics show that while this dismaying increase isn’t unique to North Carolina, the drastic jump of pedestrian deaths in the state indicates a significant problem that needs to be addressed.

A Frightening Trend

While these statistics are daunting, it’s sadly on par with a growing national trend. While the number of national pedestrian deaths had reached an all-time high in 1980, the numbers had significantly decreased and stayed at relatively low numbers for years. That all changed in 2017, when a significant uptick in pedestrian deaths climbed to an annual rate of nearly 6,000, and 2018 saw a similar number of fatalities nationally.

North Carolina’s numbers are equally discouraging. According to a recent online article, the number of pedestrians killed in traffic-related accidents has increased by 54%.  These statistics have obviously triggered alarm bells throughout the state, as the DOT and other officials look for answers and remedies.

Possible Reasons

The reasons for the unfortunate jump in statistics are hard to qualify. One of the most common reasons blamed is the distractions provided by the constant use of cell phones by both drivers and pedestrians alike. An attempt by North Carolinian legislators to get a bill passed making it illegal for drivers to have their cell phones in hand while operating a motor vehicle, unfortunately, died in committee this past summer, but proponents of the “Hands Free NC Act” say they will definitely try to get the Bill across next session. 

Another potential cause that has been cited is the increase in recreational and medical marijuana use. While North Carolina still has some of the most rigid marijuana possession and use penalties in the country, they did recently expand the approved use of medical marijuana and CBD-focused products to include several additional chronic diseases. Regardless, the use of marijuana and its related products has drastically increased over recent years throughout the nation, and its potential to cause inattentive driving and walking is a possible reason behind additional traffic-related deaths.

Staying Safe

With the increase in pedestrian deaths, North Carolina has begun a safety initiative called “Watch For Me NC” with the goal of educating North Carolinians on the problem and suggesting potential actions they can take to try to curb the situation.

Suggested safety tips include:

  •       As a pedestrian, stick to the sidewalk whenever possible without exception. If no sidewalk is available, make sure to keep to the extreme left side of the road as it faces oncoming traffic.
  •       Since 30% of pedestrian-related crashes occur between the hours of 8 PM and midnight, it’s important to wear brightly colored clothing when outside at night, and including reflective tape or gear to your clothing can significantly help drivers see you when it’s dark outside.
  •       Wearing earphones can significantly cut down on your ability to be aware of your surroundings. If you must wear them while walking or exercising on busy city streets, take special care to stick to sidewalks and pay special attention to traffic signals.
  •       If you’ve been drinking, call an Uber! Statistics indicate that 36% of pedestrians involved in a fatal traffic accident were at a blood alcohol content of .08 percent or higher at the time of the crash.

While these recent statistics are troubling, it’s encouraging to know that efforts are being made to do something about it. Efforts like the “Watch For Me NC” campaign as well as efforts to build more sidewalks in heavily trafficked North Carolina cities like Raleigh and Charlotte will hopefully have a pronounced impact on the number of pedestrian-related crashes in the immediate future. In the meantime, when walking, stay safe and stay aware! 

Involved in a Pedestrian Related Accident? We Can Help

If you require assistance with a pedestrian related car accident case, contact the attorneys at Glenn, Mills, Fisher and Mahoney by calling (919) 683-2135 today or visit our Case Evaluation page and complete the contact form for a no obligation review of your case.