Vehicles and pedestrians have shared the road for years. However, 2020 saw an increase in pedestrian and cyclist deaths caused by vehicles. Fewer cars and more pedestrians on the road created a deadly combination evidenced in Shelby County and Tennessee as a whole. For pedestrians using the roadway, it is important to be aware of the vehicles on the road.
An Increase in Pedestrian Deaths
In 2020, Shelby County in Tennessee saw a nearly double increase in deaths to pedestrians and cyclists. The deaths of people running, walking, or cycling went from 38 in 2019 to 66 in 2020. While 2020 was a year of change, one of the most significant changes was fewer people driving and more people walking or biking to where they needed to go.
With fewer people driving, drivers may feel more comfortable driving at higher speeds. Less traffic also leads to drivers handling their vehicles recklessly, without regard for others who may use the road. Drivers have failed to recognize they must share the road with pedestrians and cyclists.
The pandemic may be to blame for such a significant increase in pedestrian and cyclist deaths. The pandemic led to a rise in people being outside walking, running, and biking. Additionally, those who have suffered economic difficulties may not own a vehicle and have to walk or bike instead of driving.
While the increase in Shelby County was significant, it was an indication of a trend statewide. Tennessee had an increase in pedestrian deaths from 148 in 2019 to 173 in 2020.
Drivers Legal Consequences
In addition to criminal charges, a driver that caused an accident can be held responsible in civil court. Drivers have a legal duty to operate their vehicles in a manner that avoids injuring or killing others, including pedestrians and cyclists. When a driver drives unreasonably and injures or kills a pedestrian or cyclist, they have breached this duty.
A driver handles the car unreasonably when they act differently than the average person would in similar situations. Unreasonable driving includes speeding, driving recklessly, using a phone while driving, or not keeping eyes on the road. “In the majority of the vehicle-caused pedestrian deaths, speed is a major factor for the collisions.” said Attorney David Gordon of the Law Office of David E. Gordon.
Wrongful Death Lawsuits
A driver is responsible for damages caused by their actions. While the victim may be deceased, their immediate family can bring a lawsuit against the driver for wrongful death.
Generally, the deceased’s spouse or children bring a wrongful death lawsuit. However, if the deceased was not married and had no children, the deceased’s parents or siblings may bring the lawsuit.
The family may recover damages for lost financial support and companionship the deceased provided. In addition to the lost financial contributions, the driver is liable for medical and funeral costs. Loss of companionship includes loss of assistance, guidance, or training the deceased would have provided.
Pedestrians Should Use Caution
Until drivers adapt to more pedestrians on the road, pedestrians must be cautious. This includes being aware of the vehicles on the road and being ready to move out of a car’s way. Unfortunately, there are times a collision is unavoidable due to the driver’s actions.
Shelby County has demonstrated how deadly pedestrian accidents can be. When a driver is to blame, the family can hold the driver legally responsible.