Pedestrian deaths have steadily increased from 2010 to the present in the United States. According to the Governors’ Highway Safety Association (GHSA), the latest statistics available, which are from 2016, show that 5,997 pedestrians died in accidents that year. That represents an 11% increase from 2015. Overall, the number of pedestrian fatalities rose approximately 25% since 2010. Those figures represent a dramatic increase in pedestrian fatalities. Comparatively, the increase in all deaths in traffic accidents was 6% during that same time frame.

Pedestrians in Georgia accounted for a substantial number of pedestrians killed. In 2016, Georgia was one of a handful of states that experienced over 100 pedestrian fatalities in the first six months of the year. The preliminary data showed that 109 pedestrians died in accidents from January to July of 2016. The data from the second half of the year is not available.

Why are pedestrians killed at such high rates?

A multitude of factors contributes to the increasing pedestrian fatality rate. The number of pedestrian fatalities will increase when more cars and walkers are forced to share the roads. The factors contributing to the increase in drivers and pedestrians on the road are:

  • Economic conditions. Typically, vehicular traffic increases when the U.S. economy improves. The increase in vehicular traffic is due to more people commuting to work and more cars on the road generally because people can afford the cost of operating and maintaining a motor vehicle in better economic conditions. Increased distraction from cellular devices will also increase the number of fatal accidents.
  • Demographics. Major metropolitan areas like Atlanta have more pedestrians than rural areas.
  • Weather. Nice weather allows for more people to walk to their destinations or to walk as a form of exercise.
  • Fuel prices. Lower gas, diesel, and oil prices allow drivers to drive further and more frequently than when gas prices are high.

The GHSA measures three conditions to find trends in pedestrian accident causation. The first factor is lighting conditions. It probably comes as no surprise that the overwhelming majority of pedestrian deaths occur in the dark. In 2015, 74% of all pedestrians struck and killed happened in the dark. By contrast, 23% of fatal accidents occurred in the daylight, and the remaining 4% occurred at either dawn or dusk.

The second condition the GHSA examines is alcohol consumption. Alcohol and drug consumption reduce a person’s reaction time and negatively affect one’s judgment. That is why walking while intoxicated, while certainly not unlawful on its own, can be hazardous. The GHSA approximated that 34% of pedestrians killed in motor vehicle accidents that involved alcohol had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. Comparatively, 15% of drivers who killed pedestrians had a 0.08% BAC.

Finally, the GHSA considers roadway configuration as a factor in pedestrian fatalities. Nearly three-quarters of all pedestrian deaths in 2015 occurred in a travel lane. A paltry 18% of deadly pedestrian accidents occurred at intersections, and less than 10% occurred on a sidewalk or in a driveway.

What damages are available for the wrongful death of a pedestrian in Georgia?

Georgia law allows the spouse, child, or personal representative of the pedestrian to recover damages amounting to compensation for the full life of the decedent. Georgia law defines the full value of life as the monetary value of the person’s life as well as the intangible value of that life. Monetary value is wages and earnings, as well as the net worth of the individual. The intangible value may be derived from the emotional ties to family, the type of life the person led, how much enjoyment the person got out of life, and the quality of the relationships the person enjoyed during his or her life. Georgia law asks the jury to use their common sense, experience, and be “guided by their life experience.”


Childs v. UnitedStates, 923 F. Supp. 1570 (S.D. Ga. 1996)

Montlick & Associates, Attorneys at Law

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