Do Pedestrians Always Have the Right of Way?
Whether it’s walking to your car, to work, or to the grocery store, most Americans are pedestrians at some point every single day. You may think that as long as you are in a crosswalk or you have stopped and looked both ways, you are safe to cross. Unfortunately, that is a dangerous misconception that has resulted in thousands of unnecessary injuries and deaths.
- In 2016, 5,987 pedestrians were killed, up from 5,495 in 2015.
- On average, a pedestrian was killed every 1.5 hours in traffic crashes in 2016.
- The highest percentage (26%) of pedestrian fatalities occur between 6 p.m. and 8:59 p.m.
Pedestrians should be especially careful in Las Vegas. Preliminary data from the Nevada Department of Transportation shows that 78 pedestrians lost their lives in Clark County in 2017 — 21 more than in 2016. The popular strip on Las Vegas Boulevard is always crowded with tourists walking on the sidewalks and crossing the streets. Add the fact that many of them have been consuming alcohol, and it’s a recipe for disaster.
Pedestrian Right of Way Laws
Any person walking along a road or in a developed area is considered a pedestrian. While drivers are taught and encouraged to stay alert and be aware of pedestrians at all times, they are not always at fault should they hit someone. Distracted and impaired walking can be just as dangerous as distracted and impaired driving.
In Nevada, pedestrians using a crosswalk or obeying crossing signage at a local intersection almost always have the right of way. The only time a pedestrian would not have the right of way, is if they were to step off of a curb or dart into the street suddenly, not allowing a driver enough time to brake or steer in the opposite direction.
Cases involving pedestrians that are injured while obeying signage in a crosswalk are usually fairly easy to try in court. If a person on foot is hit and injured outside of a pedestrian safety zone, the case gets trickier. In fact, the injured pedestrian may even be ticketed for jaywalking.
Still, drivers have a responsibility to pay attention and make every effort possible not to hit pedestrians — even outside of crosswalks and intersections. Anyone who is injured in an accident involving a pedestrian should contact an experienced personal injury lawyer who can review their case and determine who is at fault, or whether the responsibility should be shared equally.
Avoiding Pedestrian Accidents
Many state legislatures have been enacting tougher laws to combat the rise in pedestrian injuries and fatalities. Nine states now require motorists to stop when approaching a pedestrian in what are called, “uncontrolled crosswalks.” Controlled crosswalks are typically marked, while uncontrolled crosswalks can be either marked or unmarked. Most states only require drivers to yield to, rather than stop for, pedestrians crossing at uncontrolled crosswalks.
Of course, not everyone is going to pay attention to these laws. Since nobody wants to be injured or blamed for causing a pedestrian accident, both drivers and those on foot should take the following extra precautions:
- Slow down at crosswalks.
Even if the light is green, drivers should slow down and carefully look around for pedestrians at intersections and crosswalks. Some pedestrians may take longer than the allotted time to cross.
Walkers, skaters, and other pedestrians should also look both directions before entering the street, even if the signal is telling them to cross. A driver running a yellow or red light may still be barreling through the intersection.
- Make Yourself Easy to See.
In 2016, 75 percent of pedestrian fatalities occurred in the dark. If you know you are going to be walking or jogging near traffic at night, consider wearing bright clothes and even reflective tape.
Drivers should make sure their headlights are on, and should honk as soon as possible if they notice they are rapidly approaching a pedestrian in the roadway. While the driver may not have time to stop, the pedestrian may have time to jump out of the way.
- Avoid Being Intoxicated Near Roadways
Alcohol involvement—for the driver and/or the pedestrian—was reported in 48 percent of all fatal pedestrian crashes in 2016. Most often, the driver had a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) above the legal limit of .08 g/dL, while the pedestrian didn’t have any alcohol in their system. However, about 33 percent involved a pedestrian with a BAC at or above the legal limit.
Intoxicated drivers are more likely to have blurred vision and slowed reaction time. They may not even see a pedestrian, let alone slam on their brakes in time to avoid a traumatic collision. Driving under the influence also increases the likelihood of a driver leaving the roadway, and plowing onto a sidewalk.
Pedestrians that have been drinking are often off balance and quick to lose focus. They may miscalculate how far away a car is, or how fast it is going, and step off a curb and right into a driver’s path. They may also accidentally stumble into the roadway. Either way, cars, pedestrians, and drugs or alcohol don’t mix well.
- Avoid Distractions Near Roadways
Anything that takes a driver’s or pedestrian’s eyes and ears away from the road can be extremely dangerous. Both parties should avoid being distracted by electronic devices such as smartphones, or by conversations with others. Anytime people are behind the wheel or crossing a street, they should be alert and focused on what is going on around them.
Pedestrians and drivers are always going to share the roadways, and pedestrians are no match for a moving vehicle. Even low-speed crashes can result in catastrophic injuries and fatalities. Regardless of who has the right of way, everyone should pay close attention, and do what they can to avoid collisions.
Still, accidents are going to happen. Even if you are paying attention, obeying pedestrian laws, and doing everything you can to be seen, a driver may not be. If you or someone you know is injured in a pedestrian accident in Las Vegas or Reno, contact the knowledgeable legal team at Shook & Stone.
You may be entitled to significant compensation that could help with medical bills and lost wages. We have seen every kind of pedestrian accident, and can determine who is legally at fault, and should be held financially liable. Let us fight for you while you focus on recovering.