October is National Pedestrian Safety Month
On September 29, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) launched the first ever National Pedestrian Safety Month this October. The goal for this month is to increase awareness about pedestrian safety and to remind drivers and walkers that staying safe is a shared responsibility. The NHTSA has provided tips for pedestrians and motorists alike to stay safe:
How can I stay safe while walking? 5 Walking Tips from the NHTSA
- Stay on the sidewalk whenever possible. When one isn’t available, walk as far from traffic as possible and walk on the side of the street facing traffic.
- Keep alert and don’t be distracted by your phone or other devices. Make sure you can see and hear your surroundings.
- Cross the street at crosswalks and intersections where drivers will expect to see pedestrians. Look for cars in all directions and pay attention to cars turning. If there are no crosswalks or intersections available, be sure to cross in a well-lit area where you have a clear view of traffic. Wait for a gap in traffic that will allow you to cross safely.
- Stay visible at all times. Wear bright clothing during the daytime and wear reflective materials or use a flashlight at night. Never assume that a driver can see you. Make eye contact with drivers to ensure that you are seen.
- Be aware of your surroundings and watch for vehicles entering or exiting driveways, or backing up in parking lots.
How can I help keep pedestrians safe while driving? 5 Driving Safety Tips from the NHTSA
- Be alert and watch out for pedestrians everywhere at all times. Use extra caution when you drive in unfavorable conditions like at night or in bad weather.
- Be ready to stop and slow down when you approach a crosswalk. Never pass another vehicle stopped at a crosswalk as you may not be able to see a pedestrian that they have stopped for.
- Yield to pedestrians in crosswalks and stop far enough back from the crosswalk to give other drivers an opportunity to see and stop for the pedestrian.
- Always follow the speed limit especially when pedestrians are present. Follow the slower speed limits in neighborhoods and school zones to ensure you have plenty of time to stop if a child runs into the street.
- Be extra careful when backing up as pedestrians can move into your path or blind spots.
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In the News: Tragedy Strikes, Man Killed Crossing Lakeshore Drive
This story is a sad reminder of why the tips from the NHTSA are so important. In the early morning hours of August 21, 2020, a pedestrian from the Uptown neighborhood on Chicago’s north side was struck and killed by a motor vehicle as he attempted to cross Lakeshore Drive. The pedestrian was attempting to cross Lakeshore Drive on foot. The Chicago Sun Times reported that “the 32-year-old was attempting to run across the 4800 block of North Lake Shore Drive toward Montrose Avenue Beach at about 1 A.M. when he was hit by a northbound Toyota Corolla.” Id. It appears that the pedestrian was attempting to cross Lakeshore Drive at a location without a designated crosswalk or pedestrian thoroughfare. Id. The driver of the Toyota Corolla stayed at the scene and spoke with police officers who conducted an investigation. The Chicago Sun Times reported that no charges or citations were expected against the driver of the Toyota Corolla and the Chicago Police Department have characterized the event as a terrible accident. Id.
In Illinois, who is at fault when a pedestrian is hit by a car?
In Illinois, pedestrians are expected to cross any street in a designated crosswalk or pedestrian thoroughfare. While crosswalks are not always available, it is important to avoid crossing busy streets at night and at locations where there are no designated traffic signals which help to control traffic.
According to the NHTSA, in 2017 in the United States, there were 5,977 pedestrian fatalities. While astonishingly high, the number of pedestrians killed in 2016 was higher, reaching 6,080 deaths. Of those approximately 6,000 fatalities, over two-thirds of the pedestrians involved in fatal accidents were male. Furthermore, over a quarter of pedestrian fatalities occur between 6:00 P.M. and 9:00 P.M., presumably due to the waning sunlight and high traffic density that occurs during these hours.
What happens if a pedestrian caused an accident in Illinois?
While liability may seem clear in the tragic accident that occurred on Lakeshore Drive, Illinois traffic statutes are designed to protect pedestrians and actually place a substantial duty on Illinois motorists to avoid striking pedestrians, even when they are not crossing in a designated crosswalk or pedestrian thoroughfare. The relevant statute begins, stating:
A pedestrian shall obey the instructions of any official traffic control device specifically applicable to him, unless otherwise directed by a police officer. 625 ILCS 5/11-1001(a).
The statute then continues, stating:
No pedestrian shall suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a moving vehicle which is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard. 625 ILCS 5/11-1102(b).
Based on these statutes, the logical conclusion would be that crossing Lakeshore Drive in the early hours of the morning at a location that had no crosswalk, traffic light, or pedestrian thoroughfare would indicate that the pedestrian was at fault for the accident. However, as mentioned above, Illinois law is very protective of pedestrians. In the same Section of the Illinois Compiled Statutes, it is stated that:
… every driver of a vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian, or any person operating a bicycle or other device propelled by human power and shall give warning by sounding the horn when necessary and shall exercise proper precaution upon observing any child or any obviously confused, incapacitated or intoxicated person. 625 ILCS 5/11-1003.1.
Section 5/11-1003.1 reminds us that the specific facts of each accident truly matter. Even if a pedestrian is not crossing where they are intended to, drivers still have a duty to try and avoid striking the pedestrian and to sound his or her horn upon seeing the pedestrian to warn them of the vehicle’s approach. For these reasons, and without further information, liability and its apportionment of liability will always be up for debate.
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How can I get help if I am hit by a car while walking?
Motor vehicle accidents that involve pedestrians cause thousands of fatalities in the United States every year, and while those numbers have improved since 2016, they still make up a substantial portion of all motor vehicle fatalities in Illinois. While pedestrians are expected to cross at designated crosswalks and at locations with traffic control devices that bring motor vehicle traffic to a stop, drivers of motor vehicles are also expected to be aware of pedestrians on the streets and sidewalks around them. Even when a pedestrian crosses at an unintended location, if the driver of the vehicle was able to avoid or warn the pedestrian, and fails to do so, the driver of the motor vehicle may be found liable for the injuries the pedestrian sustained in the accident.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a motor vehicle accident, contact the experienced Chicago personal injury lawyers at The Kryder Law Group, LLC. immediately for your free and confidential consultation.