The number of pedestrians killed on U.S. roads last year was the highest in 28 years. The numbers for 2018 represent a 4 percent hike from 2017 and a 35 percent hike since 2008. Alcohol impairment—for the driver and/or the pedestrian—was reported in about half of the traffic crashes that resulted in pedestrian fatalities in 2017. 32 percent of fatal pedestrian encounters involved a pedestrian with a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of 0.08 grams per deciliter or higher; 17 percent of drivers in pedestrian fatalities had a BAC of 0.08 or greater. While drug testing in fatal accidents is less consistent nationwide, an estimated 18 percent of pedestrian fatalities involved a pedestrian with some drug involvement. The most common drug tested was methamphetamine.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has published tips for pedestrians and drivers to interact more safely:
10 Walking Safety Tips
- Be predictable. Follow the rules of the road and obey signs and signals.
- Walk on sidewalks whenever they are available.
- If there is no sidewalk, walk facing traffic and as far from traffic as possible.
- Keep alert at all times; don’t be distracted by electronic devices that take your eyes (and ears) off the road.
- Whenever possible, cross streets at crosswalks or intersections, where drivers expect pedestrians. Look for cars in all directions, including those turning left or right.
- If a crosswalk or intersection is not available, locate a well-lit area where you have the best view of traffic. Wait for a gap in traffic that allows enough time to cross safely; continue watching for traffic as you cross.
- Never assume a driver sees you. Make eye contact with drivers as they approach to make sure you are seen.
- Be visible at all times. Wear bright clothing during the day, and wear reflective materials or use a flashlight at night.
- Watch for cars entering or exiting driveways, or backing up in parking lots.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs when walking; they impair your abilities and your judgment.
9 Driving Safety Tips
- Look out for pedestrians everywhere, at all times. Safety is a shared responsibility.
- Use extra caution when driving in hard-to-see conditions, such as nighttime or bad weather.
- Slow down and be prepared to stop when turning or otherwise entering a crosswalk.
- Yield to pedestrians in crosswalks and stop well back from the crosswalk to give other vehicles an opportunity to see the crossing pedestrians so they can stop too.
- Never pass vehicles stopped at a crosswalk. There may be people crossing that you can’t see.
- Never drive under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.
- Follow the speed limit, especially around people on the street.
- Follow slower speed limits in school zones and in neighborhoods where children are present.
- Be extra cautious when backing up—pedestrians can move into your path.
What are the legal issues when a pedestrian is hurt in a traffic collision?
While many people assume that a pedestrian always has the right of way while walking on the roadways, the reality is that pedestrians have a duty to exercise ordinary care for their own safety while using the roadways. Failure to exercise ordinary care can result in a finding of contributory negligence—meaning that the pedestrian cannot recover because she was at fault, regardless of the fault of the driver. Some principles to keep in mind:
- Pedestrians are required to use the sidewalk when available. Va. Code 46.2-928. If there is no sidewalk, a pedestrian may walk on the hard surface of the roadway but has a duty to keep to the extreme edge of the road. Failure to obey these duties can mean that the pedestrian is negligent.
- A pedestrian has a duty to cross the road using a marked crosswalk if available and if a crosswalk is not available, by the most direct route.
- Pedestrians have the right of way when crossing a highway within any clearly marked crosswalk, or when taking any direct route to cross any intersection where the speed limit is not more than 35 miles per hour. This right-of-way continues until the pedestrian has finished crossing the street. The driver of a vehicle has a duty to change course, slow down, or stop if necessary to permit the pedestrian to cross safely.
- However, a pedestrian has a duty to obey walk/don’t walk signals. Va. Code 46.2-925, and crossing against the signal can be negligent.
- Pedestrians also have a duty not to step into the street from behind an obstruction. Similarly, pedestrians have a duty to keep a lookout for motor vehicles and to refrain from entering or crossing an intersection in disregard of approaching traffic.
These rules are designed to create a balance between the rights of pedestrians and motorists on our roadways. If you or someone you know has been injured while a pedestrian, be sure to call a lawyer who can evaluate the rules and advise you whether you have the right to fair compensation for your injuries.