by Steven Gursten
Cities like Grand Rapids & Ann Arbor are implementing aggressive safety campaigns to reduce injuries and deaths from car vs pedestrian crashes
October is the most dangerous month in Michigan for a car vs pedestrian accidents.
Michigan Traffic Crash Facts reported that in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017, the “highest number of pedestrian-involved crashes occurred during October,” with 265, 237, 239 and 259, respectively. (Michigan Traffic Crash Facts, 2015-2017, “Fact Sheets,” “Pedestrians”)
Sadly, this trend is consistent with the overall trend in Michigan which saw a 4.6% annual increase in injury crashes involving pedestrians between 2016 and 2017.
The same is true across the country as national agencies such as the Governors Highway Safety Administration (GHSA) are reporting the highest levels of pedestrian fatalities in the past 25 years. According to the GHSA, nearly 6,000 pedestrians lost their lives in car crash-related accidents in both 2016 and 2017.
What cities like Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor are doing to prevent car vs pedestrian accidents
Large Michigan cities like Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor have implemented their own safety campaigns to protect pedestrians and combat this dangerous trend. Their strategies include law enforcement training and mobilization, public education and crosswalk treatments.
On a national level, many communities are getting involved in the “Vision Zero” project, which is a comprehensive set of policies aimed at eliminating all types of traffic deaths throughout the U.S.
In early 2018, the City of Grand Rapids launched its “Heads Up, GR!” campaign, whose purpose is to:
“Inform the community about our new ordinance that requires motorists to stop for pedestrians at all crosswalks … remind motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians of their responsibilities to make our active community safe for all travelers, no matter their mode of transportation.”
This made great sense given that between 2012 and 2015, 56% of all crashes in Kent County occurred in Grand Rapids – and Kent County had the third-highest rate of pedestrian-involved crashes among all Michigan counties.
To find out how “Heads Up, GR!” is going in terms of preventing and/or reducing car vs pedestrian accidents, Michigan Auto Law reached out to Chris Zull, Traffic Safety Manager for the City of Grand Rapids. Here’s what Chris told us:
Michigan Auto Law: “How is Heads Up, GR! going? Are there any short-term improvements as a result?”
Chris Zull: “The Grand Rapids Summer of Safety program emphasized two different grant-funded campaigns to help bring awareness to vulnerable road users, Driving Change and Heads Up, GR! With crash trends on the rise, the City has been working to make our roads safer. Through these education campaigns, we have had a positive influence on public knowledge, specifically regarding Grand Rapids laws. The most notable is the requirement to leave 5 feet when passing a cyclist and to stop for pedestrians within a crosswalk. These efforts are intended to create public conversations and knowledge that help lead to a culture change that better promotes transportation safety.”
Michigan Auto Law: “Can you think of any reasons why October was such a high month last year for pedestrian-involved injury crashes?”
Chris Zull: “It’s not just last year. Most fall seasons have an uptick in pedestrian-involved crashes. My experiences have been that there are several factors that contribute to this trend. The shorter days are part of the reason but I believe there are several others. School is back in session in the fall and there are more people coming and going. The weather is often pleasant enough too, encouraging more evening outdoor activity. A few special days in October increase the exposure as well (Halloween, Friday night football games, etc.).”
Thank you, Chris, for sharing your insight and perspective. We hope this new initiative brings Grand Rapids and other cities closer to the nation’s vision of zero fatalities and serious injuries.
To learn more about the “Heads Up, GR!” The campaign, click here to visit their website.
Safety tips for preventing car vs pedestrian crashes
First off, because more than half of all pedestrian injuries occur at night, pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists must be very careful when driving during non-daylight hours.
Second, if you’ve been drinking, call a friend or an Uber or a taxi: Close to 80% of Michigan pedestrians killed in 2017 had been drinking.
Third, eliminate the distractions – whether you’re behind the wheel or on foot. With shorter days and fall events, these pedestrian crash statistics are an important reminder that everyone – motorists and pedestrians, alike – should be focusing on their surroundings and obeying all traffic laws, rather than looking at their phones and electronics.
Unfortunately, Michigan does not have a universal crosswalk law. Most cities have adopted the Michigan Uniform Traffic Code, which states that “…[A] driver shall not enter an intersection or a marked crosswalk unless there is sufficient space on the other side of the intersection or crosswalk to accommodate the vehicle he or she is operating without obstructing the passage of other vehicles or pedestrians, notwithstanding any traffic-control signal indication to proceed.”
Several cities with high pedestrian volumes, including Ann Arbor, Traverse City and, of course, Grand Rapids, have their own ordinances that require vehicles to stop and not just yield for pedestrians within a crosswalk.
How does Michigan No-Fault help if you’ve been injured in a car vs pedestrian accident?
We know first-hand from our attorneys’ experience helping pedestrians involved in crashes how severe, debilitating and all-too-frequently life-threatening the injuries can be.
If a Michigan resident is injured by a motor vehicle while walking, their own no-fault insurance – or the policy belonging to a spouse or a family member with whom they live – will provide the same benefits as if they were driving their own car in the crash.
However, if a pedestrian doesn’t readily have a source for no-fault auto insurance coverage, he or she is still entitled to No-Fault benefits and the statutorily prescribed order of priority will determine what insurer will provide those benefits.
For more details, visit our page on Benefits for Pedestrians and Bicyclists.
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