2020 was a difficult year for everyone, as the impact of COVID-19 will be felt for years to come. We all remember the early days of the pandemic, with school closures, lockdowns, and people working from home. While motor vehicle traffic significantly decreased in 2020 due to less cars being on the road, Shelby County residents may be surprised to learn that in 2020, pedestrian fatalities increased by a shocking 60% from 2019, according to the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security.
The 2020 pedestrian fatality statistic represents a large increase from prior years. For the sake of comparison, pedestrian deaths in the Memphis area in the preceding years were as follows: 40 in 2019, 32 in 2018, and 38 in 2017. Deaths trended higher nationally as well, per the Governor’s Highway Safety Association.
The victims ranged from 11 years old to 75 years old. Pedestrian fatalities occurred all over town, including Midtown, East Memphis, South Memphis, and Germantown. 64 of these pedestrian deaths were on foot, while 2 were on bicycles.
Causes of Increased Pedestrian Accident Fatalities in Memphis
In reporting on the unfortunate increase in fatalities, Yolanda Jones of the Daily Memphian interviewed Memphis Police Department Col. Keith Watson, who leads MPD’s traffic division. Col. Watson attributes the increase to factors such as speed and distraction.
Specifically, Col. Watson said speed and distraction “do not allow drivers to have the reaction time to slow, stop or yield to the right-of-way sometimes when they are reacting to a pedestrian also making a bad choice.” Col. Watson also noted less drivers on the road during COVID-19, which led some drivers to increase their speeds.
In the City of Memphis, MPD stated certain roads had a higher volume of pedestrian accidents than others, including:
- Poplar Avenue
- Jackson and Austin Peay
- Third Street
- Lamar Avenue
- Winchester and Shelby Drive
To combat the startling increase in pedestrian fatalities in Shelby County, city officials are taking action. Nick Oyler, the Bikeway and Pedestrian Program manager for the City of Memphis, said one way to combat pedestrian deaths is to improve city streets. For example, city officials plan to add lighting to improve visibility on sidewalks. In addition, the city plans to add sidewalk and intersection improvements to areas such as:
- Ball Road and Manchester Road
- Streets around Dunbar Elementary School (2606 Select Avenue, Memphis, TN 38114)
- Range Line Road from Wellons Avenue to St. Elmo Avenue
- Range Line Road at Orman Avenue
Distracted driving has long been a problem in Memphis and throughout Tennessee. For example, in 2008, there were 10,822 distracted driving accidents in Tennessee. By 2010, that number increased to 15,079, and in 2019, it jumped to 23,758. The increase in distracted driving accidents has correlated with the increased prevalence of smartphones. Distracted driving includes actions such as texting while driving, surfing the Internet, eating, and talking. In Tennessee, distracted drivers can be held responsible for failing to maintain a safe lookout and failing to yield to other drivers and pedestrians.
Nahon, Saharovich & Trotz has fought for the rights of motor vehicle accident victims for over 30 years. In addition to handling auto and pedestrian accident cases, our lawyers assist victims of bicycle accidents. We understand how an accident can affect the lives of the victim and their loved ones, and our team offers dedicated and compassionate representation to make our clients’ lives as easy as possible. To speak with an experienced lawyer today, call NST Law at 800-529-4004 or complete our online form.