Use the crosswalk. Wait for a green light or walk signal. Look both ways. Cross quickly.
We have these rules for safely crossing streets drummed into us from the day on which we take our first steps. This is a good thing because the rules work and following them prevents countless deaths and injuries in Virginia and elsewhere each year.
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The basic rules for pedestrians sharing the road with drivers are far from complete, however. What happens where there are no crosswalks, traffic lights or stop signs? Does the driver or the pedestrian have right of way in a parking lot or when crossing the entrance to a parking lot or driveway? What is the proper and legal way for a pedestrian to walk along a rural highway that lacks not only sidewalks and traffic controls, but also has no real shoulders?
Virginia laws address many of these situations, but even those statutes only describe standard scenarios. As Virginia Beach-based personal injury attorneys, my law firm colleagues and I know that each crash involving a car, truck or bus and a pedestrian raises unique and difficult questions. To help our injured clients, we first look to section 46.2-924 of the Virginia Code, which is titled “Drivers to stop for pedestrians; installation of certain signs.”
The statute gives pedestrians right of way at
- Any clearly marked crosswalk, whether at mid-block or at the end of any block;
- Any regular pedestrian crossing included in the prolongation of the lateral boundary lines of the adjacent sidewalk at the end of a block;
- Any intersection when the driver is approaching on a highway or street where the legal maximum speed does not exceed 35 miles per hour;
- Entrances to parking lots, alleys and driveways; and
- Any place where the state or a locality has put up a stop sign or yield sign.
Driver must also wait for pedestrian to exit crosswalks before turning or moving through an intersection even if the light has changed.
The statute does not make a pedestrian’s right of way absolute, however. Rather, it includes this sentence: “No pedestrian shall enter or cross an intersection in disregard of approaching traffic.”
Since Virginia applies the concept of contributory negligence to personal injury and wrongful death claims, a pedestrian who steps out in front of driver can be denied the opportunity to hold the person who hit him or her financially accountable. Negligent acts by a pedestrian include crossing against the light, walking while looking down at a smartphone or tablet, walking while using headphones that block out the sounds of approaching vehicles and walking while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Partnering with an experienced Virginia personal injury law can help a pedestrian fight back against accusation of contributory negligence.
One type of crash in which questions of pedestrian negligence often arise is when a driver collides with a person who was walking along the side of a rural highway. Section 46.2-928 of the state code makes it clear that pedestrians should stay out of the roadway except when they have no choice. It continues: “If they walk on the hard surface, or the main travelled portion of the roadway, they shall keep to the extreme left side or edge thereof.” Pedestrian who must walk in the roadway are also supposed to face oncoming traffic.
Determining exactly where a pedestrian was struck makes a lot of difference to the outcome of a personal injury or wrongful death case. Did the driver run off the road and onto the shoulder? Was the pedestrian as far left as possible and facing the driver? Did the driver speed around a curve, eliminating the possibility of seeing and avoiding the pedestrian? Finding the answers can take a lengthy independent investigations overseen by the victim’s lawyer.
An experienced personal injury attorney with dual licensure in Virginia and North Carolina, Eric Washburn received a B.B.A. in Finance from James Madison University—initially worked in the information technology field before obtaining his law degree from Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Lansing, Michigan. Once an Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney in Danville, Va., Eric has been recognized by Super Lawyers Magazine as a “Rising Star” Super Lawyer in Virginia since 2014.