Pedestrian accidents are on the rise despite an increase in traffic lights, crosswalks and stop signs designed to make it safer for both pedestrians and motorists. It is estimated that more than 2,000 pedestrians are hit every year in North Carolina, with approximately 160 pedestrians dying as a result of their injuries. Fall is the season when most pedestrian accidents occur.
Pedestrians can be hit by a car in any number of situations including while walking on a sidewalk or in a parking lot, crossing the street, or walking or running along the side of a road with or without sidewalks. Unfortunately, since pedestrians are unprotected, the likelihood of severe injury if you are hit by a car or truck is high.
Most people have heard or uttered the phrase “the pedestrian always has the right of way.” If that was true, then in the case of a car accident involving a pedestrian, pedestrians would always be able to bring a personal injury claim and recover damages. That saying is not always true and pedestrians are required to follow certain laws in North Carolina.
Laws Pedestrians Must Obey
Pedestrians, like cars, are required to follow the rules of the road. There are some situations in which pedestrians do have the right of way, but it is not in every situation.
Intersections with Traffic Lights. When there is a normal traffic light, then the following rules apply to pedestrians:
- not crossing when the light is red, or yellow
- if the light is green, the pedestrians have the right of way, even if a car is turning
- pedestrians also have the right of way if the light changes to yellow or red while they are already crossing the street. Cars must yield to them.
Intersections Without Traffic Lights. If there is a dedicated crosswalk, then it is clear that pedestrians have the right of way. If there is no dedicated crosswalk, then pedestrians still have the right of way.
Intersections with Walk and Don’t Walk Signals. Pedestrians are required to obey all traffic signals, and assuming they are doing so, they do have the right of way over a car. So if the "Walk" signal is displayed and the light is green, then pedestrians have the right to cross regardless of any cars that also have the green light. If the light is red and the "Don’t Walk" signal is displayed, then the pedestrian does not have the right of way. That being said, North Carolina law requires drivers to honk at a pedestrian who is not obeying the law and if the pedestrian does not stop, then the driver must stop.
Crosswalks. As above, a pedestrian at a corner with a dedicated crosswalk has the right of way. In North Carolina, if there is a crosswalk in the middle of a block, then the pedestrian in that crosswalk will also always have the right of way.
Steps to Take to Avoid Pedestrian Accidents
In addition to obeying the law, pedestrians can take a few steps to try to keep themselves safe. These include:
- Walking on sidewalks when they are available. Walking in the street is inherently more dangerous than walking on the sidewalk.
- Wearing reflective clothing if it is dark out. This is particularly important if you are walking on the side of the road or crossing where there is no light.
- Never assume that a car is going to stop. While cars should fully stop at stop signs and lights, never assume that they are going to. Watching carefully, especially if the light is changing, could help to save your life.
- Walk facing traffic, it is easier for a driver to see you if you are walking towards them, not away from them.
- Make sure to look both ways before crossing; don’t just assume that traffic on both sides will stop even when there’s a light.
- Cross wisely. If there is no crosswalk or light, make sure that you cross in a well-light and visible area.
Drivers should also take steps to avoid hitting pedestrians. They include:
- Always remain alert. If you are distracted, even for a few seconds, you could miss seeing someone cross the road.
- Make sure that your headlights are working properly so that you can see well in the dark.
- Obey the traffic laws. Do not exceed the speed limit, make sure to stop fully at stop signs and red lights, yield to pedestrians in crosswalks and always be aware.
- Pay particular attention in parking lots, always look behind you before backing up.
Pedestrian Accident Injuries
Pedestrians who are injured have little protection against a car and often suffer severe injuries. One study estimates that a pedestrian hit by a car going 40 mph has an 85% chance of being killed. Some of the most common injuries include broken bones, head injuries, neck injuries, back injuries and soft tissue injury.
If you were hit due to the negligence or recklessness of the driver of the car, then you may be able to recover damages for you injury including:
- medical expenses - including doctors bills, prescriptions, adaptive devices and rehabilitation
- lost wages - if you missed time from work because of your injuries, or are disabled because of your injuries you may be able to recover current and future lost wages
- funeral expenses, when dealing with a pedestrian fatality
- pain and suffering
- punitive damages. These are available only if the car driver’s behavior was egregious. For example, if you were hit while crossing the street by a drunk driver, you might be entitled to punitive damages.
Contact Our Charlotte, NC Attorneys If You Were Injured In a Car Accident
Pedestrian accidents happen more often than people realize. The Charlotte, NC based lawyers at Rosensteel Fleishman, PLLC are experienced car accident attorneys who can help you understand your rights and whether or not you have damages and should proceed with a claim. Please contact our office at 704-714-1450. There is no fee for an initial consultation.