Miami is not kind to cyclists or pedestrians. In 2016, over 1,300 pedestrian accidents occurred. Of these, 82 percent of pedestrians were injured and five percent of the injuries were fatal.
When a personal injury case involves a pedestrian, the main dispute dispute usually centers around who had right of way. Here is an overview of right of way laws regarding pedestrians in Florida.
The Ground Rules
The relevant statute concerning pedestrians contains 19 provisions on pedestrian behavior. Within these provisions are ground rules that every pedestrian must follow:
- Follow traffic control devices and signs, including those at marked crosswalks.
- Pedestrians are expected to cross at the shortest distance between corners. This means crossing in right angles and not diagonally unless a marked crosswalk allows for that.
- When crosswalks and traffic signals are available, pedestrians must cross at those intersections.
- Use sidewalks when provided. Walking in a roadway made for vehicles when there are sidewalks available may result in a traffic infraction.
- Finally, never step into the path of an oncoming vehicle if it cannot stop or yield in time. “Close calls,” even when correct under other right-of-way laws, violate the statute.
Following these ground rules not only keeps you from collecting traffic fines, but more importantly keeps you from ending up as hood ornament on a car. Simply stated, they are common sense safety rules that may save you from collisions and injury.
Pedestrians have ground rules and so do motorists. These include:
- Following traffic signals and signs, especially those alerting motorists to the presence of pedestrians;
- Yield to pedestrians already crossing the road;
- Never pass a vehicle that is waiting for pedestrians; and
- Exercise due care to avoid colliding with pedestrians and bicyclists, especially children.
Assigning rules of the road to both pedestrians and motorists is important. However, like any other rule, the key is to follow the rules.
When Right of Way Applies
If an accident between a car and pedestrian occurs, the party who did not have right of way is normally considered at fault. There are extraordinary situations where this may not necessarily be the case but generally, car-pedestrian accidents arise from a party failing to yield right of way.
Knowing and understanding these laws depends on seeing the situations where they apply. When it comes to a vehicle-pedestrian situation, vehicles are required to yield when:
- A pedestrian enters a crosswalk and the vehicle has time to stop or yield;
- Pedestrians are in the same half of the road as the vehicle;
- Pedestrians approach from the opposite side of the road and are close enough to be in danger; and
- When signage at an uncontrolled intersection communicate a duty to allow pedestrians to cross.
Pedestrians gain the right of way once they start crossing the street. If a motorist arrives at an intersection where pedestrians are crossing from either side, they must yield to them. A motorist is not excused of these duties just because they were not present at the start of the crossing.
There are also situations where pedestrians must yield to vehicles. They include:
- Crossing outside a marked crosswalk;
- Using an unmarked crosswalk; and
- Crossing at a spot other than an intersection.
This can create some cut-and-dry situations. A pedestrian who is hit in a crosswalk after giving a vehicle plenty of room to stop likely has a strong case. The same is true if a driver runs a red light or fails to look both ways before turning.
However, a pedestrian who steps directly into vehicle traffic where there is no crosswalk will likely be considered at fault. While it occurs infrequently, there are instances where a driver has right of way but failed their duties in other ways.
Pedestrian cases are challenging. Injuries are often severe, and confusion about right of way only adds to the ordeal. Liability is often in dispute because each party is convinced they had right of way at the time.
If there is any type of personal injury case that should require attorney representation, pedestrian cases fall firmly in that category. Kaire & Heffernan, LLC is an experienced personal injury firm dedicated to making Miami a safer place to bike and walk. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.