- October 6, 2017
- Pedestrian Accidents
Along with topping lists of best travel destinations, Asheville tops another, less-illustrious list. The city ranks the highest in North Carolina for pedestrian accidents, per person. Over a five-year period, Asheville’s per-capita rate of pedestrian accidents was 8.1 per 10,000 residents. Charlotte, the most populated city in North Carolina, had a rate of 5.1 accidents per 10,000 residents.
This blog post is one in our series about safety issues in Asheville. We want to look at the factors that contribute to Asheville’s high rate of pedestrian and bicycle accidents and what can be done to make the city’s streets safer for people who choose to walk and bike.
The flow of traffic into and out of Asheville day by day is the first pain point. Western North Carolina’s population has steadily increased in recent years. Many residents choose to make their homes in the city limits, while others move to the towns just outside Asheville like Arden, Fletcher, and Black Mountain. Jobs are concentrated around the city, bringing traffic into Asheville from the outlying areas.
Meanwhile, for much of the year, tourists linger in and around Asheville. Visitors tend to prefer walking and bicycling. Many year-round residents do too, conscious of the environmental and health benefits of traveling on foot or on a bike.
The result is heavy traffic and a steady flow of pedestrians moving in and around Asheville, resulting in the hundreds of pedestrian accidents and a high number of deaths that occurred over the five-year period studied by the North Carolina Department of Transportation. This brings us to the next issue influencing Asheville’s high number of pedestrian accidents.
Hot spots: Busy streets with few crosswalks
Like most cities, Asheville has its busy streets. Traffic waxes and wanes throughout the course of the day on these streets, although depending on the season these areas may stay consistently busy.
Finding an opportunity to cross a busy street is often dangerous in Asheville. The streets where most of Asheville’s pedestrian accidents take place – Hendersonville Road, Tunnel Road, Long Shoals Road, Haywood Road and Patton Avenue – are long, winding roads with sprawling distances between stoplights and therefore crosswalks. Instead of walking half a mile or more to the next crosswalk, pedestrians typically choose to jaywalk, even across busy streets – a dangerous maneuver that has resulted in pedestrian accidents.
The structure of the roads themselves also plays a role in causing pedestrian accidents. In some areas, there are no sidewalks. Narrow or nonexistent shoulders leave pedestrians with little space to avoid being hit by oncoming vehicles.
The City of Asheville has long known of the danger pedestrians face in Asheville, even before the DOT study that found that Asheville’s per-capita rate of pedestrian accidents far exceeded even Charlotte’s. Officials have taken some steps toward remedying the problem, such as adding sidewalks along the busiest roads and assessing higher property taxes in order to send more funds toward improving the city’s transportation infrastructure. This is an important and valuable start, but other problems loom that continue to place pedestrians in danger.
Lax enforcement of traffic laws
Ask any mixed group of Asheville residents what causes pedestrian accidents, and you’ll probably get an even split: one contingent will blame reckless drivers who don’t stop or even slow down for pedestrians at crosswalks, and the other will blame clueless pedestrians who don’t even bother using crosswalks anyway.
It’s the responsibility of both motorists and pedestrians to be vigilant on streets busy with both cars and people on foot. However, motorists must exercise due caution when they’re behind the wheel in an area where pedestrians congregate. A careless pedestrian can’t hurt a motorist, but a careless motorist can definitely hurt a pedestrian.
Drivers coasting through crosswalks when pedestrians are waiting to cross or have already started crossing rarely see any penalty for their actions. Unfortunately, when motorists make a habit of this behavior it leaves pedestrians at higher risk of harm. Police have begun public outreach campaigns to call attention to the problem of pedestrian accidents. However, a crackdown on drivers failing to yield to pedestrians would send an even stronger message.
No discussion of hazards in Asheville would be complete without mentioning drunk drivers. Along with leading the state in our per-capita rate of pedestrian accidents, Buncombe County outnumbers every other county in North Carolina for DWI arrests. This comes as no surprise since beer flows like water in our area.
Although drunk drivers are certainly responsible for their own actions, an underlying cause of Asheville’s drunk driving problem is the bars and restaurants that routinely overserve customers to the point of drunkenness. This is an unlawful and irresponsible practice, but that doesn’t stop many establishments from continuing to serve too much alcohol to their patrons. Nor does North Carolina’s dram shop law, which makes bars and restaurants liable for damages a customer causes that result from their being overserved. Enforcement by state agencies, which could result in the loss of these establishments’ liquor licenses if they do not comply, would likely motivate bar and restaurant management to serve responsibly. Meanwhile, outreach campaigns like Serve Safe, Drink Safe have successfully called public attention to both drivers’ and businesses’ responsibility to make Asheville a safer place.
Contact an Asheville pedestrian accident attorney
Pedestrian accidents can involve devastating injuries and often loss of life. Pedestrians have no defense against a motor vehicle collision; the painful, debilitating injuries that pedestrian accident victims suffer often affect them for the rest of their lives. Victims of these types of car accidents often benefit from having an attorney handle their case. Complex injuries, long-term treatment, issues of contributory negligence, and other complicating factors can make pedestrian accident cases difficult to handle alone, especially for victims still recovering from their injuries. Our experienced personal injury team is ready to assess your case at your free initial consultation. Contact us today to schedule an appointment and to place your case in the hands of experienced professionals who will advocate for you.