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Pedestrians and the Right of Way: Know the Facts!

Pedestrians Are Always in Danger

As the weather warms up, the cherry blossoms bloom and some of us return to working in our offices, the volume of pedestrian traffic in the D.C. Metro area will rise sharply, as will the number of incidents between pedestrians and motor vehicles. In any conflict between pedestrians and motor vehicles, the pedestrian always loses and the resulting injuries can be severe.

It’s easy to forget that just as motor vehicles must obey laws and the rules of the road, pedestrians have rules to follow as well. However, even if a pedestrian follows all the rules, they can still be a victim.

Pedestrian Safety is a Shared Responsibility

It is the responsibility of motorists to exercise reasonable care for the safety of pedestrians including bicyclists, riders of electric scooters, and all users of sidewalks and roadways. Motorists need to be extra vigilant when traveling in areas with higher volumes of pedestrian traffic. However, Pedestrians should not assume that drivers will see them and will obey the law.

Pedestrians must be cautious whenever motor vehicles are present. Drivers tend to focus on things that may pose a danger to them or which may obstruct their passage. That means that drivers will pay more attention to other vehicles using the road than nearby pedestrians. Pedestrians do not always have the right of way. Here are some tips for pedestrians to consider:

  • Always try to use a marked crosswalk if one is available.
  • Do not disobey a pedestrian walk signal. If the signal is in your favor, do not blindly obey it.
  • Always look carefully in all directions before you cross a roadway. That includes looking behind you if appropriate. Be mindful of everything around you.
  • Never walk into the path of a moving vehicle. Even if you have a walk signal, are in a marked crosswalk, and are with other pedestrians, don’t assume that motor vehicles will see you and will give you the right of way.
  • Don’t enter a street from between parked cars.
  • You have a right to complete your crossing if you are already in the crosswalk when the WALK signal times out. However, that right does not mean that you can ignore approaching motor vehicles.
  • Wear bright or reflective clothing that can easily be seen in low light conditions and especially at night. Never wear dark clothing when walking at night.
  • If you do not have the right of way, yield to all motor vehicles. Even if you have the right of way, yield to any motor vehicles that are not going to yield to you.

Contributory Negligence Laws

Virginia and Maryland have contributory negligence laws, rather than comparative negligence laws. Under contributory negligence, a pedestrian who is injured by a vehicle and is found to have any responsibility for causing the accident is prohibited from receiving any compensation from the driver for their injuries and other damages (i.e., lost wage, medical expenses, pain and suffering). You can learn more about contributory vs. comparative negligence laws here on our website. In Washington D.C., a pedestrian can recover only if their negligence was not greater than the driver’s negligence.

If you or a loved one have been injured, Weiner, Spivey & Miller can advise you on your rights and work with you to receive the compensation you deserve. Contact us at (703) 215-9982 or complete a contact form to schedule a free consultation to get your pedestrian accident questions answered.

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