A recent accident with a TRAX train has prompted the Utah Transit Authority (UTA) to take a closer look at pedestrian safety and at what threats non-motorists face on the state's roadways and how they can stay safe.
This June, teenager Shariah Casper was killed while walking across a TRAX road crossing. She waited for the eastbound train to pass, but stepped out in front of the westbound train, which Shariah could not see due to a 12-foot sound barrier wall. Although gates and lights were working at the intersection, neither was in place where Shariah was crossing.
This tragic accident has prompted the UTA to examine the pedestrian safety issues at its railroad crossings and come up with solutions that will keep pedestrians from danger. UTA General Manager Michael Allegra wishes to be a leader in such efforts, and would like to partner with state and federal safety agencies to improve Utah's pedestrian railroad crossings.
Unfortunately, railroad crossings are not the only danger pedestrians' encounter. Motor vehicles are an ever-present threat, especially if pedestrians are forced to walk alongside roads. Each year, 40 Utah pedestrians die and over 1,000 are involved in a crash with a motor vehicle. Driver behaviors that threaten pedestrians can include speed, lack of focus and attention on the road and distracted driving.
Distracted driving is a plague that affects drivers across the nation. Manual, visual and cognitive distractions like eating, grooming and cell phone use greatly impair a driver's ability to operate their vehicle safely. In fact, 20 percent of all injury-causing crashes in 2009 involved a distracted driver. A University of Utah study found that driving while distracted by a cell phone has the same effect on a driver's reaction times as driving while intoxicated.
The high rate of distracted drivers in the U.S. requires pedestrians to be especially careful when crossing roads or other areas where traffic is present. In addition, pedestrians should avoid their own "distracted walking" when in these areas. Utah law demands that all vehicles stop for pedestrians in crosswalks and that drivers not overtake cars waiting for a pedestrian to cross.
Pedestrians can also take safety into their own hands. Pedestrians should be aware that their actions can be unpredictable to a driver, and take extra precautions to look before crossing roadways, make eye contact with drivers before walking in front of their vehicles and avoid stepping out in front of an oncoming car. Wearing reflective clothing and sticking to sidewalks can also improve pedestrian safety.
It is important for both drivers and pedestrians to remember that non-motorists are at a gross disadvantage in the event of a collision with a car or train. Therefore, everyone should take extra caution at interactions and other places pedestrians may be present to ensure everyone remains safe. If you or a loved one have been injured or killed while walking or cycling, please contact an experienced personal injury attorney to learn more about your rights and legal options.