No parent with young children wants to even contemplate a child of theirs being hit by a car while playing in the neighborhood. The fact is, though, that it happens, and it happens far more often than most people probably realize. In 2009 it was estimated that, on average, every year about 900 pedestrians 18 or younger were killed in traffic accidents. An additional 51,000 were injured, with more than 5,000 of those requiring hospitalization. Younger children made up less than a quarter of those 18-and-under pedestrian fatalities, but big numbers are not necessary for something to be a tragedy. Every young child struck by a car, much less killed, is a tragedy.
Child Pedestrians are at Risk Near Traffic
There were 6,205 pedestrian deaths total in 2019, representing 17% of all traffic-accident deaths. However, those statistics include only traffic deaths, meaning those deaths that occurred on roadways. An estimated 7,668 pedestrians died in 2019 in all vehicular accidents, including those fatalities that happened in accidents that did not occur on public roads. That includes pedestrian deaths that happened in parking lots, driveways, and on private property, resulting in a higher total than reflected by only those pedestrian deaths that occurred on roadways. In 2019, there were 206 pedestrian deaths among children 15 years old and younger, and 424 among pedestrians 20 years old and younger. Of all child deaths in traffic accidents in 2019, 73% were occupants of passenger vehicles, while 16% of those children killed in traffic accidents in 2019 were pedestrians. About 20% of all child traffic fatalities under the age of 15 are pedestrians. Child pedestrian deaths have declined dramatically since 1975, decreasing by 92% from 1975 through 2019. Even so, pedestrians overall are 1.5 times more likely per trip to die in a traffic accident than are the occupants of passenger vehicles.
Children are Not Adults, Especially in Accidents
In most accidents in Georgia, including traffic accidents, the concept of “comparative fault” comes into play. If you are involved in an accident and someone else is primarily at fault, you can recover damages from that person. However, your recovery is reduced by the amount of fault attributed to you. For instance, if the other driver involved in a traffic accident with you is found to be 75% at fault, but you are found to be 25% at fault – meaning you could have avoided the accident or that you contributed to its cause – then your recovery of damages would be reduced by 25%.
For a traffic accident involving a child pedestrian, the primary question when it comes to assigning liability is the same as in any other traffic accident: did either party cause the accident because of their own negligence? There is a twist, however. Children are, obviously, not adults, and legally are not held to the same standards. Georgia law requires drivers to use “due care” to avoid hitting pedestrians, but also to exercise “proper precautions” if children are observed in the area. This imposes a higher duty of care when a driver knows or should know – such as around parks, playgrounds, schools, school bus stops, or other areas where children generally are present – that children are or are likely to be present, as well as in neighborhoods when children are visibly present. Children are only held to the standard of whether they exercise the level of care that could be expected from any child of the same age, experience, and intelligence.