How to Avoid Getting in a
-by Laura Pioch, Associate
How to Avoid Getting in a Pedestrian-Vehicle Accident
Ask any Mainer to define ‘dangerous traveling conditions’ and you’ll likely hear about snow, ice, hail, rain, or fog… all realities of our northeastern climate that put drivers and pedestrians alike on high alert. During storms, we slow down, take extra care, keep our eyes on the road, or stay off the roads altogether. But there’s another more common, if less frequently discussed, condition that puts travelers at risk – especially those who travel on foot.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)’s 2016 Pedestrian Traffic Safety Fact Sheet, 75% of pedestrian fatalities in 2016 occurred in the dark rather than during daylight, dusk, or dawn hours. NHTSA also reports that throughout 2016, 26% of all pedestrian fatalities happened in the four-hour window between 6:00 and 8:59 p.m. In December, January, and February, when it’s consistently dark at that time, the share of pedestrian fatalities happening from 6 to 9 jumped to 34%.
The Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) localized this trend in its 2016 Highway Safety Facts Report. From 2011 through 2015, MDOT reported an annual average of 297 crashes involving pedestrians, 11 of which were fatal. The following year (2016), NHTSA reported 17 such fatalities in Maine. The MDOT report also stated that the highest number of Maine pedestrian fatalities occurred during dark hours, particularly between 9:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m.
How to stay safe on your nighttime travels
The first step toward staying safe is having an awareness of how dangerous walking on the roads at night can be and conversely, as a driver, how much higher your risk is of hitting a pedestrian. If you’ve read this far, you’re already there – the stats don’t lie. The next step is to know your responsibilities and adopt some basic safety practices.
The Rules of the Road – Drivers’ and pedestrians’ responsibilities to each other
Pedestrians have a number of rights when it comes to crossing a road, but there are multiple rules they must follow as well. As for drivers, you can avoid the nightmare of hitting a pedestrian by following your corresponding rules. Here’s an overview of what those are in Maine:
PEDESTRIANS: use crosswalks.
DRIVERS: give pedestrians at crosswalks the right-of-way.
If you are a pedestrian and need to cross the street, crosswalks are by far the best route to go. Those with traffic devices will instruct you when it is safe to cross, and even if no traffic devices are installed, you’ll still have the right-of-way.
PEDESTRIANS: use sidewalks.
DRIVERS: yield to pedestrians using sidewalks.
When practicable, a pedestrian must use a sidewalk next to a road rather than walking on the road itself, and while pedestrians are using sidewalks, drivers must yield to them.
PEDESTRIANS: No sidewalk? Walk against traffic.
DRIVERS: Give pedestrians 3 feet.
If there is no sidewalk, a pedestrian must walk facing approaching traffic on the left side of the road. When drivers pass pedestrians on a road, they must leave a distance of at least three feet between their car and the pedestrian.
General Safety Tips
While it is good to know the law, practical advice is just as helpful. The NHSTA fact sheet provides some great tips for pedestrians and drivers alike, including:
Precautions for pedestrians
Cross at intersections.
The NHSTA found that pedestrian fatalities occurred most frequently at non-intersections rather than in other locations. In fact, non-intersections amounted to 72% of pedestrian fatalities while only 18% of pedestrian fatalities occurred at intersections and only 10% occurred in other locations, such as roadsides/shoulders, parking lanes, or sidewalks.
Make yourself visible.
When you know you’re going to be walking at night, wear bright, reflective clothing. And when there’s no crosswalk, look for a well-lit area to cross the road.
Never assume that a driver sees you.
Whenever possible, make eye contact with the driver before crossing the road.
Precautions for drivers
Dark & stormy night? Be extra careful.
As a driver, it is best to be extra careful when driving in the dark or in inclement weather.
Think before you pass.
If you come across a vehicle that is stopped at a crosswalk, do not try to pass it as it may have stopped for a pedestrian.
Slow down when kids are around.
When driving through areas where children might be present, such as neighborhoods or schools, be sure to slow down and stay focused.
Keep your head up.
Don’t let yourself get distracted by electronic devices (this one applies to pedestrians, too).
Our office has represented many pedestrians who have been injured when they were struck by a car or truck. Some of those clients were hit at night while others were struck during the daytime. Some were using crosswalks while others were not. All of them were seriously injured.
If you or a loved one are seriously injured or killed as a result of an accident and want to discuss the possibility of pursuing a legal claim, or if you are an attorney looking to refer a personal injury or wrongful death case to someone with experience, please feel free to contact Dan Stevens at DStevens@StevensDayLaw.com or 207-430-3288.