The role that speed limits play in major pedestrian crashes

On Behalf of | Oct 12, 2023 | Pedestrian Accidents

Pedestrians struck by motor vehicles can potentially incur catastrophic injuries as a result of an accident that doesn’t leave any visible damage on the vehicle involved, let alone injure anyone traveling inside the enclosed vehicle in question. Even low-speed crashes that occur in parking lots and similar spaces could cause broken bones, brain injuries and other significant medical issues for a pedestrian.

When collisions occur at higher speeds, the risk of sustaining serious injuries is even greater. Therefore, the speed limit of the road where a pedestrian walks can have a direct impact on their likelihood of incurring severe injury and death as a result of a possible collision.

Higher speeds correlate with heightened risk

According to an in-depth analysis of nationwide pedestrian crashes from AAA, an individual’s chances of serious injury or death increase with the speed of the vehicle involved. Vehicles must travel at least 16 miles per hour (mph) to create a 10% chance of serious injury or 23 mph to create a 10% chance of the pedestrian dying.

At 23 mph, a pedestrian only has a 25% risk of incurring major injuries. However, as the speed limit increases, so does the likelihood of a poor outcome. The possibility of a severe injury is 50% at 31 mph and a shocking 90% for vehicles traveling 46 mph. Vehicles traveling at 42 mph have a 50% risk of killing someone. At just 58 mph, the pedestrian involved in the crash has a 90% chance of dying. Certain other factors influence the risk of injury and death, including the size of the vehicle and the age of the pedestrian involved in the crash.

Obviously, pedestrians cannot always avoid walking or jogging on streets with higher speed limits, but they may still want to prioritize traveling on roads with lower speed limits whenever possible. In this way, identifying controllable factors that influence someone’s overall level of risk can make the choice to walk or jog on public streets a little less risky.


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