Missouri Works to Halt Increasing Rate of Pedestrian Highway Deaths

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Pedestrian deaths on roads and highways in Missouri are on the rise, with the total number for 2011 set to exceed last year’s total. According to the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT), 54 pedestrians have died after being struck by vehicles as of the end of September. The year 2010 saw a total of 57 pedestrian fatalities statewide. Included in the count of “pedestrians” are people walking along or crossing a road, as well as people who had gotten out of their vehicles along the roadside. MoDOT defines a pedestrian as anyone on or near a roadway and not in a vehicle or on a motorcycle.

In an effort to reduce the number of pedestrian deaths, MoDOT has launched a safety campaign, “Be Safe. Be Seen,” to educate both pedestrians and motorists about road safety. MoDOT officials note that pedestrian fatalities have occurred this year at all times of day, on both highways and smaller streets, and in both urban and rural areas. This campaign is therefore aimed at everyone in the state.

The saying that “pedestrians have the right of way” has long been popular, but it is far from accurate. For one thing, that is not true from a legal standpoint. Pedestrians do not have any meaningful right of way on an Interstate highway, for example. In a battle over a right of way between an automobile and a pedestrian, the odds are very much in the car’s favor. Pedestrians should never assume that a car will give them the right of way, and they should never try to take it from an oncoming vehicle. MoDOT’s guidelines largely focus on steps pedestrians can take to not only avoid dangerous traffic conditions, but also to be visible to drivers. Two key tips offered by MoDOT are:

– Obey signs and signals.
– Don’t assume drivers will stop for you. Unless you are in a crosswalk, the driver usually has the right of way.

Other tips include using sidewalks when possible, wearing light clothing at night, and only crossing at crosswalks and intersections.

For people who must pull their cars to the side of the road, MoDOT recommends leaving the headlights and emergency lights on and only exiting the vehicle on the side furthest from traffic. If possible, it recommends staying in the vehicle with seatbelts fastened until help arrives. Stranded motorists can call *55 from a mobile phone to reach the State Highway Patrol. The Highway Patrol also has “Send Police” signs available upon request.

Anyone operating a motor vehicle on Missouri roads has a legal duty to take reasonable steps to avoid accidents, including keeping an eye out for pedestrians. Distracted drivers, such as those using their drive time to send text messages, pose a particular risk to pedestrians. Drivers should always take care to operate their vehicles safely and without distraction or impairment. Pedestrians should likewise take steps to protect themselves.

Kansas City auto accident attorney Doug Horn advocates for pedestrians who have been injured due to negligent or unsafe driving. For a free and confidential consultation, contact the firm today.

Web Resources:

Arrive Alive, Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety