In 2010, after 30 years of gradually reducing pedestrian fatality rates across the country, the number of annual deaths shot up again. At first, researchers were confused about what changed that would cause the rate of pedestrian accidents to sharply increase after so many years of decline. As more information became available, the trend only got more confusing because the data showed that pedestrian death rates during the day remained largely unchanged but pedestrian deaths at night were swiftly on the rise.
How Common Are Pedestrian Fatalities at Night?
Compiled data from the National Safety Council (NSC), the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and other safety groups showed that approximately 75% of pedestrian fatalities in 2021 happened at night. Out of the approximately 7,300 pedestrian deaths that year, roughly 5,500 happened after sunset but before sunrise. It isn’t unusual for nighttime driving to result in more accidents than daytime driving, but a 3:1 ratio is unusual, which is why researchers are struggling to figure out why it is happening.
Why is Nighttime Driving More Dangerous?
Assuming that nighttime driving is more dangerous than daytime driving acknowledges only half the situation. NHTSA roadway accident data shows that the sunset and sunrise are highly dangerous, too. Around the time of the sunset, regardless of the month or the location in the country, pedestrian and traffic fatalities tend to happen the most frequently. This data indicates that the shifting light between day and night affects driver visibility more than most people realize.
It also suggests sun blindness is a real concern for the average motorist. When the sun is low enough on the horizon to slip under even the best windshield blinders and right into the eyes of a driver, such as at sunrise and sunset, the risk of a car accident increases significantly.
Put into contexts of pedestrian safety and accidents, the nighttime is less safe because pedestrians and drivers aren’t prepared for the changes that darkness brings. Pedestrians don’t often wear reflective clothing, especially if they start their journey in the afternoon, so they can be nearly invisible to passing motorists. At the same time, drivers aren’t likely to adjust their driving habits at night to pay closer attention to pedestrians in dark or non-reflective clothing.
Even the way the roads in America are designed does not consider the dangers of darkness enough. As one researcher was quoted in an article from The New York Times: “We literally taught generations of engineers to design conditions for daylight and not to consider nighttime.”
Is Technology Increasing the Risk of Nighttime Accidents?
Driver behaviors have not changed very much in the last few decades. Issues like speeding, exhausted driving, or drunk driving are concerning but have remained predictably problematic, for the most part. What has changed in a few short years is the technology available to pedestrians and motorists alike.
Smartphones rapidly became ingrained in our society. About 33% of Americans had a smartphone in 2010, only three years after the first iPhone became widely popular. By 2021, that percentage ballooned to 85%. In 2023, it is believed that the percentage could easily be 90%, if not higher. While smartphones are convenient for everyone, they can be dangerous distractions for drivers and pedestrians. Drivers who pick up a smartphone are far less likely to notice a pedestrian crossing or walking along the street, and a pedestrian on a smartphone is far less likely to pay attention to traffic patterns around them. Both contribute to a greater risk of getting into an accident, especially at night when visibility is at its lowest.
Other technological advancements that have safety researchers concerned are the undisputed popularity of automatic transmissions and the growing interest in self-driving cars. Both technologies allow a driver to take at least one hand off the wheel, which will usually reach for a smartphone. In this way, recent technological advancements have created more dangerous driving conditions and a higher risk of pedestrian accidents. A glimpse into traffic safety records from Europe can be used to confirm as much; there, vehicles with manual transmissions make up about 70% of traffic (compared to America’s 1% of vehicles with manual transmissions), and the rate of pedestrian accidents has consistently decreased in recent years.
Walking to Work is Getting More Dangerous
Another factor that has caught the attention of pedestrian safety researchers is the age of the pedestrians involved in fatal accidents, especially at night. In the last few years, the rate of pedestrian deaths among working-age Americans (age 18 to 64) has increased far faster than the rate of people under 18 or over 65. The data trend is similar to the overall increase in pedestrian fatalities at night.
The increase in working-age Americans suffering fatal pedestrian accidents indicates that walking to and from work has gotten more dangerous. More and more people are commuting on foot in areas with busy roads and multilane streets, i.e., areas not designed well for pedestrian traffic. For people who work around sunset, at night, or overnight, the risk of encountering a distracted, intoxicated, or exhausted driver can be significant, and a pedestrian accident may follow.
What to Do After a Nighttime Pedestrian Accident
After a nighttime pedestrian accident, you should take the same steps that you would at any other time of day. Call 911, get medical attention, collect evidence and photographs at the scene, and write down the contact information of everyone involved. The one difference is that when you look for legal counsel to help with your claim, you will want to make sure that you choose a law firm that is highly experienced in complex pedestrian accident claims, such as those involving nighttime accidents in which liability is often more difficult to determine.
Our team of South Florida pedestrian accident lawyers from Schlesinger Law Offices should be your first choice for legal representation after a nighttime accident. We have the experience and resources needed to investigate any accident and build any claim. Your fight is our fight, and we intend to win it, no matter what obstacles might now stand between you and justice, as well as fair compensation for your losses.
Four reasons people choose Schlesinger Law Offices first are:
- We have recovered more than $165 million in recent settlements and verdicts for product liability clients.
- We have brought successful product liability claims against major defendants, including automakers and Big Tobacco.
- We are a legacy law firm with more than 70 years of practice experience handling all types of injury claims and class action lawsuits.
- We are trial attorneys who are committed to seeing every case to its conclusion, which means litigating and appealing when necessary.
Learn more about our representation and your legal options if you were hurt in a nighttime pedestrian accident in South Florida. Start with a free consultation by dialing (954) 467-8800 now.