In today's culture - with fast moving vehicles, distracted drivers,
bicycles, Segways, and countless people and distractions on the streets
and sidewalks, both car drivers and pedestrians need to be mindful of
being safe to avoid a motor vehicle accident. Moreover,
pedestrian accidents are some of the most serious since a pedestrian does not have the protection
provided by being inside a motor vehicle.
Here are some tips for both pedestrians and drivers that we have learned
as Washington, DC injury attorneys handling thousands of
personal injury claims. Some are obvious; some are not. Even if we already know them, however,
we forget them in the course of a busy day. So, reviewing and remembering
them can help you avoid a motor vehicle accident.
1. Cross only at a cross walk or intersection and only with a "walk"
signal, if there is a traffic signal. Contrary to what many people believe,
pedestrians do not always have the right of way. Instead, they only have
the right of way if they are in a crosswalk (or other authorized crossing
area) AND have a walk signal (if there is a light). If there is no signal,
they have the right of way if they have sufficient room to safely cross
before oncoming traffic arrives. The most common accidents pedestrians
have with cars are when pedestrians cross in the middle of the street
(especially coming from between two parked cars).
2. When you are waiting to cross a street, wait on the curb (preferably
a few steps back) and never in the street - the curb can often keep a
car from entering the sidewalk or alert an inattentive driver. If you're
in the road, not only are you more likely to get injured, but you may
be found partly responsible for your injuries. This is especially true
for drivers with cell phones - they can and so swerve to the edge of their
lane while driving due to being distracted.
3. Always wait for the signal to tell you to walk. Remember that EVERY
pedestrian who was every hit by a car never saw the car coming. That's
why they entered the roadway. We are only humans, we cannot see everything,
so wait until the oncoming traffic has a red light for added protection.
4. Likewise, do not rely solely on the traffic signal - people run red
lights. So, take a quick look before crossing the street, just in case
someone is not paying attention or is trying to beat a yellow light.
5. Do not assume drivers can see you. When you are a pedestrian in poorly
lit areas, you can see yourself better than car drivers can. They are
a distance away from you, moving fast, and looking through a windshield.
Moreover, from a distance a pedestrian blends in with other dark colors
(trees, roads, buildings). Also, before assuming a particular car sees
you, always make eye contact. Drivers routinely text and otherwise do
not pay full time and attention even when their heads are up and they
seem to be looking forward.
1. If someone is tailgating you, let them pass, if possible. Even though
an accident will be their fault if they follow you too closely, you will
bear the brunt of it and could suffer serious personal injuries. The best
approach is to let them pass and take yourself out of a potentially dangerous
2. Do not race when your light turns green; instead, wait a second and
quickly check both directions to make sure no one is running a red light,
including bicyclists and pedestrians.
3. If you are driving slowly or stopped on the side of the road, use your
flashers - especially in bad weather, because drivers have a hard time
stopping. Also, avoid standing in or near the roadway. Again, with cell
phones and the like, people tend to swerve to the edge of their lane (or
out of it) frequently.
4. Slow down and use your turn signals. The faster you go, not only are
you harder to see and anticipate (by pedestrians and other drivers), but
your and their reaction time is shortened. You simply will have less time
to brake, swerve or otherwise prevent an accident. Plus, signals make
your actions clear, so others can act accordingly. The more that every
driver knows what the other drivers are doing, the less likely are
5. No texting or doing anything else that takes your attention from the
road. This sounds like common sense, but it causes so many accidents.
Keep in mind that at 60 mph, you are moving 88 feet each second. At 30
mph, you are moving 44 feet each second. A two second glance means you've
driven 88-176 feet without looking where you are going. The remedy is
easy - for short rides, leave your cell in the backseat or glove compartment.
For longer ones, check when you stop. There are too many tragedies caused
by texting and driving - there can be no feeling worse than killing or
seriously injuring someone else because you were sending a non-urgent text.