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The risks facing pedestrians are still all too real

All over the U.S. -- especially here in California -- there is a bit of a renaissance going on in relation to transportation, such that the automobile is no longer the automatic choice of travel to work, school, the store or anywhere else within the local community. In fact, more and more people are choosing to leave their cars, trucks and SUVs in the garage in favor of their bicycles, skateboards and, of course, their own two feet.

The decision to leave vehicles parked can be traced to everything from saving money and getting there faster to reducing carbon emissions and, of course, getting in better shape. Whatever the motivation, it goes without saying that this lifestyle change, while laudable, is not without danger given the number of people still driving. Indeed, this danger is especially pronounced for pedestrians.

A serious problem across the nation -- especially here in the Golden State

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 4,884 pedestrians were killed by motor vehicles in the U.S. in 2014, the most recent year for which complete data is available. To put this in perspective, this is the equivalent of 12 people losing their lives every day of the year.

Things aren't much better on a state level, as California actually had the most pedestrian fatalities in 2014, while preliminary data from the Governors Highway Safety Association has already revealed that the number of pedestrian fatalities in the Golden State increased by 7 percent during the first half of 2015 as compared with the same time the preceding year.

As for the number of reported pedestrian injuries, the NHTSA puts the final tally for 2014 at 65,000, although it concedes the number could actually be higher given the number of injuries that go unreported to law enforcement. Even so, the 65,000 figure equates to almost one pedestrian injury every 8 minutes.

How pedestrian accidents occur

In the vast majority of circumstances, pedestrians either suffer injuries or lose their lives because motorists fail to exercise simple caution while behind the wheel, including:

· Failing to yield or stop at crosswalks, both marked and unmarked

· Failing to yield or stop when making a right or left turn at a controlled intersection

· Failing to remain vigilant during nighttime hours and/or inclement weather

· Passing a vehicle that has stopped to let pedestrians cross the roadway

· Parking their car in a crosswalk

· Speeding through residential neighborhoods, parking lots and around schools

How pedestrians can protect themselves

In light of the foregoing discussion, it's only natural that those people who incorporate walking into their everyday lives would want to know what steps they can take to avoid becoming another statistic.

The good news is that experts have provided a few safety tips that can go a long way toward mitigating the accident risk:

· Always walk on the sidewalk and, if one is not available, walk facing traffic.

· Always cross the street at marked crosswalks or intersections whenever possible.

· Always obey traffic signals (Don't Walk and Walk signs).

· Always stop and look both ways before crossing.

· Always attempt to make eye contact with motorists to ensure they see you.

· Always minimize distractions when crossing the street (headphones, smartphones, etc.).

· Always wear reflective clothing and cross the street at well-light places if walking at night.

The unfortunate reality is that no matter how vigilant a pedestrian is, there's always a chance of being hit by an inattentive or reckless motorist. It's important to understand, however, that if this happens, the pedestrian or their family can hold the motorist legally accountable for their negligence.

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