New Orleans bike accident shines spotlight on bike and pedestrian safety

New Orleans had its first fatal bike accident of 2014 when a 50-year-old cyclist was struck by a car on a notoriously busy stretch of St. Claude Avenue. The incident calls much-needed attention to the issue of bicycle and pedestrian safety in New Orleans and throughout Louisiana, where accidents of this kind have been on the rise in recent years.

Traffic deaths have been on decline in Louisiana over the past decade, but pedestrian deaths have increased during the same period. According to a recent report from the Louisiana Public Health Institute in conjunction with the Center for Planning Excellence, pedestrian deaths accounted for nearly 17 percent of all Louisiana traffic fatalities in 2012, compared to less than 10 percent in 2003.

Pedestrian accidents have also begun increasing nationally again after several years of decline. In 1975, the first year for which there is data available, there were a total of 7,516 pedestrians killed in traffic accidents in the U.S. according to a report from the Governor's Highway Safety Association. Since then, the number of pedestrian fatalities followed a downward trend until 2009, when there were 4,109 fatal pedestrian crashes nationwide. Recently, however, the number has been on the rise again, increasing by nearly 5 percent each year through 2012. During the same three-year-period, other types of traffic fatalities dropped by 3 percent overall.

Pedestrian accident trend has several possible explanations

The reasons for the uptick in pedestrian fatalities are not entirely certain, but experts say increases in distracted driving are a likely factor. Growing populations of elderly people, immigrants and others who may be especially vulnerable to pedestrian accidents could also be contributing to the change. According to the report, people age 70 and older have a higher per-capita pedestrian death rate than any other age group. Recent immigrants, on the other hand, may face a higher risk of accidents if they are in unfamiliar surroundings and unacquainted with local traffic safety rules.

Another reason behind the increasing numbers of pedestrian accidents may be that people are simply walking and biking more in recent years than they did in the past. There are several factors that may contribute to help explain this trend, including the economic downturn, environmental considerations, and an increased focus on exercise as a way to promote good health.

Compensation may be available for Louisiana crash victims

When someone is hurt or killed in a traffic accident in Louisiana, the person responsible for causing the crash can be held liable for the medical bills, lost income and other damages suffered by the injured victim or his or her surviving family members. If you or someone in your family has been hurt in a crash in Louisiana, talk to a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer to learn about the options that may be available to you if you wish to seek compensation for your losses.