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In downtown areas, drivers may naturally be on the look-out for pedestrians, especially where there are many office buildings or tourist areas. However, pedestrian accidents can occur anywhere at any time, even where there are sidewalks and designated crossing areas.

Recently, an elderly man was hit by a car that was making a right turn while he was crossing the street. The man experienced head trauma and is in critical condition at a local hospital. The accident occurred near Mt. San Antonio College at about 6:40 a.m., and authorities are still investigating the cause. At this time, the driver has not received a citation.

Pedestrians are particularly susceptible to injury when stuck by vehicles. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA), over 78,000 pedestrians are injured per year by car accidents. Pedestrians who are injured by a driver may be able to recover damages against that driver if the driver acted negligently. Generally, drivers are required to use reasonable care, which typically means abiding traffic signals and the speed limit. Drivers must exercise a special, greater, duty of care where children are likely to be present, such as near schools and residential areas.

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Pedestrians are always at risk near busy roadways because they have little protection when cars and trucks speed past them. Just because traffic laws require that drivers yield to pedestrians crossing roads, sometimes motorists neglect to do so, often resulting in catastrophic injuries or death to the victim.

During a recent accident in San Jose, an 81-year-old woman was hit and killed by a car as she crossed a road at daybreak. Police report that there was no indication that the 50-year-old driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Drivers must exercise reasonable care to avoid accidents and failure to do so is considered negligence. Some common instances of negligence include:

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California is one of the most deadly states for pedestrians along with New York, Florida and Texas. In fact, 42 percent of all fatal pedestrian accidents occur in these states and only 5 percent of all traffic related fatalities.

The California Highway Patrol reported that there were 214 pedestrian deaths and nearly 5,000 pedestrian injuries in Los Angeles County in 2008. Of all the child fatalities related to motor vehicle crashes, nearly one third are pedestrians.

California is especially deadly for pedestrians because there are so many high traffic, urban areas in the state. Approximately 72 percent of fatal accidents occur in urban areas.

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Fall is an exciting time for families as children start back to school. A new school year often brings new routines, and it's beneficial to start good habits at the outset in order to keep kids safe. Maybe your child is walking or biking to school for the first time, and safety concerns have moved to the top of your list. These tips will help keep children safe on their way to school even if you're not around.

First of all, children should be taught to be aware of vehicles and motorists at all times. This goes further than just looking both ways when crossing the street; kids should keep an eye on vehicles - even if parked - while walking to school. School bus drivers are generally well-trained to look out for children in and around bus stops and school zones, but kids should also be alert and mindful of their own safety when walking in front of or behind a school bus. If riding on a school bus, it is important to follow the bus driver's instructions to stay seated, and to keep all extremities inside the bus. Many communities are organizing "walking school buses," which are groups of kids who walk to school together, usually with one or more adults. Consider spearheading this if it might work for your neighborhood.

San Jose is well-regarded for its proactive safety precautions when it comes to school pedestrian safety. A special committee has been designated to evaluate school walking routes and to implement the use of a paid crossing guard if an area meets certain criteria. If you feel that your child's walking route should have an official crossing guard, you can go to the city's website and learn how to request an evaluation.

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Crosswalks are designed to give pedestrians a place to safely cross to the other side of the street. A recent California case has examined the safety of crosswalks at uncontrolled intersections. Emily Liou was crossing over State Route 82 in Millbrae in the evening. The intersection has six lanes of traffic, a raised median, but no traffic signals. While using the crosswalk, she was hit by a car. She suffered serious injuries, which will require round-the-clock care for the rest of her life.

The lawsuit filed by her family alleged that the crosswalk actually made her less safe as she crossed the road. Liou's attorneys examined the safety of the crosswalk. Caltrans was told by legislators to make pedestrian safety a high priority prior to Liou's accident. Caltrans did not study the crosswalk where Liou was injured. Caltrans was found negligent and was ordered to pay the family more than $12 million in damages.

False Sense of Security?

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