Pedestrian injuries and fatalities

In 2001 one pedestrian was injured or killed every 5 hours and 12 minutes in Wisconsin. About 60 pedestrians are killed each year in Wisconsin and another 350 are seriously injured. Another 1,200 or more suffer injuries ranging from minor to serious, but not incapacitating. Only 36 pedestrians escaped injury in these crashes.

Pedestrian crashes have declined from 2,048 in 1994 to 1,657 in 2000.

A great number of pedestrian crashes involve children. Between 1994 and 1998, children age 14 years and younger were involved in 37.5% of all pedestrian crashes in Wisconsin.

An examination of the pedestrian injuries and fatalities in Wisconsin over the past 15 years shows a mixed result. Pedestrian traffic injuries have declined from 2,144 in 1984 to 1,648 in 2000. Unfortunately, the rate of fatalities has not improved much over this same time period. Pedestrian fatalities in Wisconsin range between 50 to 65 deaths per year, 50 in 2000. Only 40 of the injured in pedestrian crashes were occupants of the vehicles.

Pedestrians ages 75 and older showed the highest rate of fatalities. Older pedestrians do not have the same ability to recover from their injuries as younger pedestrians, and many may take longer to cross the street or have difficulty seeing or hearing traffic clearly.

Children ages 5-9 also showed a high rate of injury. They are most at risk due to their limited understanding of traffic laws and little sense of danger.

Child pedestrians

Children often dash in front of a motor vehicle. Motorists must protect the children and themselves from a crash by remembering the following things:

  • Children have not yet developed judgment to survive traffic without help.

  • Children have 1/3 less peripheral vision than adults.

  • Children have very acute hearing, but difficulty identifying the direction sound is coming from.

  • Children think if they can see a vehicle, it and its operator can see them.

  • Children cannot judge speed and distance or even if a vehicle is moving or parked.

  • Children have developed no sense of danger or understanding what a serious injury means.

  • Children in motion stay in motion.

  • Children think motor vehicles can stop as fast as they can as pedestrians.

Motorist safety reminders

Slow down to or under the posted speed limit in neighborhoods, school zones, playgrounds and swimming pool and park areas.

Where there are children or children's toys or attractors, keep your foot over the brake to stop quickly if needed. Crashes that happen at low speeds of 25 MPH and below have 89% survivability, while at 35 MPH and higher that reverses to 89% of pedestrians dying when struck.

Expect children on bicycles and in-line skates, and using toys like scooters, skateboards, roller skates, baby buggies and things used as toys: tires, shopping carts, etc., and be ready to safely swerve to miss them or stop if that is not possible.

Remember that children as well as adults have every right to be on the street on in-line skates or on a bicycle, even two abreast, if obeying traffic laws.

Always stop for a blind pedestrian, child or adult, with a white cane or a dog guide. Let them complete their crossing before you move your vehicle.

The most dangerous thing a motorist ever does is pass another stopped vehicle, especially on the right, and on both sides if it is a school bus with the lights flashing.

Yellow lights on a bus mean you may pass on the left side, but cautiously, expecting children.

Red lights flashing on the back of the stopped or stopping school bus means you should stop, at least 20 feet from the bus in all the lanes traveling behind the bus, and it also means stop for those traveling in the opposing lanes unless the road is fully divided with a median.

Common pedestrian crash types

Street or road crossings are, by far, the most common types of pedestrian crashes. Any street crossing can put a pedestrian in the path of a motor vehicle who's driver may not be paying attention or may not have the time to avoid a pedestrian who suddenly steps into their path.

Pedestrian crash typesPercent of crashes
Crossing at intersection32%
Crossing mid-block26%
Not in road (e.g., parking lot, near curb)9%
Walking along road/crossing expressway8%
Backing vehicle7%
Working or playing in road3%

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Transportation Safety