Concerned about the grave statistics of Florida’s pedestrian accidents, we caught up with the District One Secretary for the Florida Department of Transportation, Mr. Billy Hattaway, and discussed what the state is and has been doing to correct the problems, and how those efforts are working.
Has it been a good idea to do the checkpoints at the crosswalks similar to DUI checkpoints?
That’s what we call high-visibility enforcement. Yes, because we had the media come out as well, or I should say they want to know any time we do this enforcement campaign, so it becomes news. Thankfully, the media has been very supportive, and they’ve put out public service announcements and put it on the news, which helps expand the coverage of our campaigns.
At those crosswalk checkpoints do you find that the motorists are getting the tickets, or are pedestrians also getting tickets for not crossing properly?
Well, we’re doing them at crosswalks, so in these locations where we’ve been working with the police, it’s where we’ve had problems with driver yielding when pedestrians are behaving properly, so we’ve got more drivers getting tickets. We don’t have a jaywalking law in Florida, contrary to popular belief, and so as long as a pedestrian is not stepping out in front of a car in such a way that the driver can’t slow down and yield to the pedestrian, unless they’re crossing at a place that’s clearly unsafe, there’s not much opportunity to ticket because pedestrians can cross at intersections, whether they’re marked or unmarked. They can cross anywhere really along the roadway as long as they don’t cause the driver to have to stop suddenly and in an unsafe fashion.
If there’s a crosswalk at an intersection, you should cross in the crosswalk. You can get ticketed for that, but it’s a fact that where people cross at locations where there’s not an intersection for 500 feet in each direction, they can legally cross.
Who is at fault in a crosswalk accident?
Determining who is at fault in a crosswalk accident, you usually look toward a statute. Statutes in most states say that a pedestrian facing a green light can cross the street or the roadway, unless the green signal is a turn arrow, and they can do that as long as they remain within any marked crosswalk, or if there are no marked crosswalks, they are still allowed to cross a street or roadway as long as they are facing a green light.
And all motor vehicles are required to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians that are lawfully within that intersection or crosswalk. If a light is yellow or red, a pedestrian is not supposed to enter a crosswalk or roadway unless, obviously, they have some other proper pedestrian crossing signal. If, for instance, you enter a crosswalk or roadway improperly, other vehicles/cars still have a responsibility to avoid hitting you, and so, there are statutes throughout the country that say, even when a pedestrian enters a crosswalk or tries to cross a street improperly, every driver should exercise due care to avoid colliding with them, and give some type of warning, if it’s possible, whether it’s beeping their horn or some other type of warning, if they have the ability to do that.
Ultimately, a driver of a motor vehicle tends to be in a better position to avoid an accident, and so, the law still places some responsibility on a driver to be able to stop if they can, or to be aware of their surroundings, and to take precautionary measures, if possible.
Who Is At Fault In A Pedestrian Accident
Trying to determine who’s at fault in a pedestrian accident depends on the facts of the particular incident. As with most other personal injury claims, it is governed by the law of negligence to determine who caused the accident. Basically, every person is expected to exercise a reasonable level of care under a given set of circumstances. So, for example, drivers and pedestrians are expected to obey traffic laws and the rules of the road when using streets, or highways, or crosswalks.
So, if Person A fails to act with reasonable care and ends up causing harm to Person B, the law considers Person A the negligent person, regardless of whether they were driving or they were walking. And so, if a pedestrian fails to exercise reasonable care in some way and it causes an accident, the pedestrian may be at fault as well. For example, if a pedestrian runs out between parked cars and into the path of an oncoming vehicle, and the driver of the vehicle cannot avoid hitting the pedestrian, the pedestrian will probably be considered at fault for the accident.
Similarly, if the driver of the vehicle had sufficient time or enough time to take evasive measures and failed to do so, they may be responsible for the accident. And so, ultimately, determining the negligence or the fault really depends on the particular circumstances. Obviously, a driver has a legal duty to know the roadway around them and to take reasonable care to avoid a pedestrian, whether that’s a person walking, or a bicyclist and, particularly, there is a greater duty of care around young children, who tend not to be predictable around vehicles.
When you’re looking at negligence of a pedestrian, you’re looking at a few common mistakes that either a driver or a pedestrian would make that may place them at fault for an accident. Common mistakes by pedestrians tend to be crossing a street on a Don’t Walk signal, walking or running into the flow of traffic, not using crosswalks, sprinting out in front of a car.
And a driver is usually considered negligent, and pedestrian accidents occur when they’re preoccupied for some reason, whether it’s on a cell phone, or some other reason, and failing to pay attention, or they’re not observing the speed limit, or a driver fails to yield the right-of-way at a crosswalk, or a driver fails to use a turn signal, or they fail to stop at a light or a stop sign, or as, in many cases, where they are driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.