Pedestrian accidents in South Carolina jumped almost 16 percent in the first half of last year compared to the year before, and the Governors Highway Safety Association reports distraction may play a substantial role.
That report was released following a recent examination by The Island Packet regarding bicycle and pedestrian accidents in Hilton Head and Beaufort County revealing the vast majority of deadly crashes happen at night. Of the 28 fatal pedestrian accidents and bicycle accidents that happened on Hilton Head between 2000 and 2016, all but eight happened on a dark road at night. Despite this, the majority of the island remains almost totally without streetlights. The lack of lighting is intentional, and the city's traffic/transportation engineer has said it is likely to stay that way in order to preserve the natural look of the island as natural and undeveloped. While some worry the lack of lighting will continue to result in more pedestrian accidents, the engineer opined it serves to encourage drivers to slow down and be more cautious. The numbers don't support this opinion.
The GHSA report, which reveals that the number of fatal pedestrian accidents in South Carolina rose from 66 in the first six months of last year, compared to 57 the first six months of 2015. The South Carolina pedestrian fatality rate, which takes into account the number of pedestrians killed for every 100,000 people, is 1.33. That puts this state at No. 4 in the nation for these kinds of fatal crashes. It's not a top spot we'd like to keep.
Analysts are focused on the fact that pedestrians are increasingly distracted. The number of Americans who own a smartphone has more than doubled just in the last six years, and is now up to 77 percent. Among younger adults between the ages of 18 and 29, about 92 percent have a smartphone. It's unclear to what extent pedestrian distraction plays a role in these collisions. Based on research from the National Safety Council and others, we acknowledge that distraction is believed to play a role in more than half of all fatal crashes. One study by AAA indicated that distraction was a factor in 58 percent of all crashes, including 9 out of 10 road-departure crashes (which would affect innocent pedestrians) and and 76 percent of rear-end collisions.
But let's assume for a moment that pedestrian distraction is an issue and does play a role in a significant number of pedestrian accidents. In South Carolina, the negligence of a person who is injured does not, in and of itself, prohibit recovery of damages. Precedent set in the 2000 South Carolina Court of Appeals case of Ross v. Paddy held that plaintiff's negligence cannot exceed that of the defendant's. This is also known as a modified comparative fault with a 51 percent bar. In other words, plaintiff is barred from seeking damages only if his or her negligence exceeds that of the defendant's. So a pedestrian who was deemed 40 percent at-fault for the crash at issue would still be able to collect 60 percent damages from the defendant. However, a plaintiff who was deemed 55 percent at-fault would be prohibited from suing.