Atlanta pedestrian accident lawyer Charles Scholle explains crossing laws and provides safety advice
More people are walking, jogging, bicycling and running than ever before. The benefits of these forms of transportation include getting exercise, saving money, reducing stress from traffic and helping the environment by not using fossil fuels.
Unfortunately, the increased use of cellular phones and other electronic devices, as well as higher rates of traffic (especially in the Atlanta area), mean there are many distracted drivers on the road. Distracted driving car accidents are a very real and serious danger for pedestrians in Georgia.
In this article, we will offer some life-saving pedestrian safety tips, as well as a give refresher on Georgia law regarding pedestrians.
Bottom Line: If a car hits a pedestrian, the driver of the car is generally found at fault.
What is a pedestrian?
According to Georgia code 40-6-96, the term “pedestrian” means “any person afoot and shall include, without limitation, persons standing, walking, jogging, running or otherwise on foot.”
All of us are pedestrians at some time, walking from one destination to another—whether walking a few feet or for several miles. Unfortunately, pedestrian fatalities remain high in Georgia and across the U.S. Nationwide, pedestrian deaths have increased by 50 percent in recent years, even while other roadway deaths have decreased.
Many experts place the blame on mobile devices. Pedestrians are far too often struck by a car while using their mobile devices and crossing the street at the same time. On the other side, there are many instances in which a pedestrian-vehicle collision occurs because the driver’s attention is diverted from the road to their mobile device.
Basic pedestrian safety tips
Although you can’t control another person’s behavior, there are some actions you can take to reduce your risk as a pedestrian:
- Wear bright clothing during the day. Wear reflective clothing when walking, jogging or running in the evening.
- Walk in well-lit areas in the evenings, when possible.
- Take a light with you if you are going to be walking in a dark area in the evening.
- Don’t use your mobile device while walking, jogging or running. Give your full attention to your surroundings.
- Don’t wear headphones. As stated above, give your full attention to your surroundings.
- Take a personal alarm device with you, if possible.
- Walk on the sidewalk, when possible. If there is no sidewalk, walk as far away from the edge of the road as possible.
- Follow the rules of the road and obey all signs and signals.
- If you are walking on the roadway, walk facing traffic.
- Be on the lookout for vehicles entering or exiting driveways, or backing up in parking lots.
- If you are crossing a road, always use the crosswalk unless one isn’t available. If there is no crosswalk, cross at the intersection using a well-lit area where you have the best view of traffic. Wait for a gap in traffic that will allow enough time to cross in a safe manner. Look both ways and continue watching for traffic as you cross.
- Even if you have the right of way, be cautious of distracted drivers. Make eye contact with the driver if you are crossing the roadway.
- Stay off of the interstates. In 2014, 3 pedestrians were killed when they tried to cross I-85. This caused the Georgia State Patrol to remind pedestrians that it’s illegal to walk along the interstate.
Pedestrian safety tips for children
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has published pedestrian safety tips for children. They even have a colorful pamphlet on their website for children to help reinforce these basic safety precautions.
The NHTSA pamphlet, “A Kid’s Guide to Safe Walking,” states:
- Stop at the curb or the edge of the road if there is no curb.
- Stop and look left, then right, then left again for moving cars before you step into the street.
- If you see a car, wait until it goes by. Then look left, right, left again until no cars are coming.
- If a car is parked where you are crossing, look to make sure there is no driver and that the car is not running.
- Next, go to the edge of the roadway and look left-right-left to see if cars are coming.
- When no cars are coming, walk—do not run—across the road. Keep looking left-right-left for cars while you are crossing.
Also, if your child is riding a bus, please remind them:
- If he or she has to cross the street, wait to cross the road after the bus has extended its stop sign, and look both ways before crossing the roadway.
- Stay 5 steps away from the curb while waiting on the bus.
- Always wait until the bus comes to a complete stop and the bus driver signals for you to board.
- Exit the bus when it comes to a complete stop and look left-right-left for cars before crossing the street.
Georgia crosswalk and pedestrian crossing laws
You may ask yourself:
What happens if I am hit by a car when crossing the road that does not have a crosswalk?
It’s important to understand what Georgia law says about pedestrians crossing a road without a crosswalk.
You may also want to know what to do if you are in the middle of the crosswalk and light changes.
Who has the right of way?
Even though a pedestrian may have the right of way in the crosswalk, it doesn’t mean you can just walk out into a crosswalk without using due care.
Georgia law requires every driver of a vehicle to exercise due care to avoid hitting any pedestrian. It also requires pedestrians to cross in a crosswalk.
But what if there is no crosswalk?
According to 40-1-1.(10), “Crosswalk” means:
(A) That part of a roadway at an intersection included within the connections of the lateral lines of the sidewalks on opposite sides of the highway measured from the curbs or in the absence of curbs, from the edges of the traversal roadway: or
(B) Any portion of a roadway at an intersection or elsewhere distinctly indicated for pedestrian crossing by lines or other markings on the surface.
Therefore, a crosswalk, even one that’s not marked on the roadway, would be where the corner and the 2 streets connect.
Georgia law also requires the driver of a car to allow the pedestrian to complete their crossing if they are already in the crosswalk. However, you should use caution when entering the crosswalk when the light changes from DON’T WALK to WALK.
How would it affect liability if I am hit at night while wearing dark clothing?
There are many factors that would be reviewed in considering this question, such as:
- Were you in a well-lit area?
- Was there a crosswalk available, and if so, were you in the crosswalk?
- Were you at an intersection?
Georgia law places responsibility on both the pedestrian and the driver to avoid a collision, and both parties must exercise due care to avoid a collision.Georgia law says that when walking down a road that has a sidewalk, a pedestrian should use the sidewalk.
What Georgia pedestrian law says in layman’s terms
In 1995, the Georgia legislature changed the crosswalk law that drivers must “stop and stay stopped” for pedestrians. Here’s an overview of the current Georgia code when it comes to pedestrians:
4-6-91. Right of way in crosswalks
a) The driver of a vehicle shall stop and remain stopped to allow a pedestrian to cross the roadway within a crosswalk when the pedestrian is upon the half of the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling, or when the pedestrian is approaching and is within one lane of the half of the roadway on which the vehicle is traveling or onto which it is turning.
The driver must yield the right of way to pedestrians either in or approaching the crosswalk.
Example: If you are approaching a crosswalk, or in a crosswalk, you have the right of way and the vehicle must yield to you.
b) No pedestrian shall suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is impractical for the driver to yield.
The pedestrian should not abruptly enter the roadway, without using caution.
Example: You are responsible for your safety and must be cautious by looking both ways before attempting to cross the roadway.
c) Whenever any vehicle is stopped at a marked crosswalk or at any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection to permit a pedestrian to cross the roadway, the driver of any other vehicle approaching from the rear shall not overtake and pass such stopped vehicle.
In other words, if a driver sees another vehicle stopped to allow pedestrians to cross the road, they are obligated to stop also. The pedestrian has the right of way in this scenario
40-6-92. Crossing roadway elsewhere than at a crosswalk
a) Every pedestrian crossing a roadway at any point other than waiting within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection shall yield the right of way to all vehicles upon the roadway unless he has already and under safe conditions, entered the roadway.
Every pedestrian must yield to vehicles unless the pedestrian is already in the roadway. Use the intersection when crossing, if there is no crosswalk.
Example: You must use caution before crossing the road; however, if you are already in the roadway, you have the right of way. Even if you are in the roadway, keep a lookout for vehicles approaching.
b) Any pedestrian crossing a roadway at a point where a pedestrian tunnel or overhead pedestrian crossing has been provided shall yield the right of way to all vehicles upon the roadway if he uses the roadway instead of such tunnel or crossing.
If there are other means of crossing the road available to the pedestrian, such as a pedestrian bridge or tunnel, the pedestrian is expected to use that means of crossing the road.
Example: If there is a pedestrian crossing bridge or tunnel, you should use it. If you do not use this option, the vehicle has the right of way.
c) Between adjacent intersections at which traffic control signals are in operation, pedestrians shall not cross at any place except in a marked crosswalk.
Between adjacent intersections, pedestrians should not cross anywhere other than the marked crosswalk.
Example: If there is a crosswalk, you are obligated to use it.
d) No pedestrian shall cross a roadway intersection diagonally unless authorized by official traffic-control devices. When authorized to cross diagonally, pedestrians shall cross only in accordance with the official traffic-control devices pertaining to such crossing movements.
Example: If you are on one corner and want to cross that street, then cross in a perpendicular manner, you cannot cross diagonally. You have to make 2 crossings.
40-6-22. Pedestrian control signs
Whenever special pedestrian-control signals exhibiting the words WALK or DON’T WALK or symbols so directing a pedestrian are in place, such signals shall indicate as follows:
1) Word or symbol message WALK -Pedestrians facing such signal may proceed across the roadway in the direction of the signal. Every driver of a vehicle shall stop and remain stopped for such pedestrians;
Pedestrians should always obey the WALK signal that you are facing. Drivers must allow the pedestrian to clear the roadway.
2) Flashing or steady DON’T WALK – No pedestrian shall start to cross the roadway in the direction of such a signal, but any pedestrian who has partially completed his crossing on the WALK signal shall proceed to sidewalk or safety island while the DON’T WALK signal is showing.
Flashing or steady DON’T WALK signal means that pedestrians shall not begin to cross the roadway in the direction of this signal. However, if a pedestrian has already entered the crosswalk, the pedestrian has the right to complete the crossing.
In short, these 2 statutes are self-explanatory: obey the signal.
Other Georgia pedestrian laws
40-1-1. (57) Definition of a sidewalk:
“Sidewalk” means that portion of a street between the curb lines, or the lateral lines of a railway, and the adjacent property lines, intended for use by pedestrians.
40-1-1.(22) Definition of an intersection:
A) the area embraced within the prolongation or connection of the lateral curb lines, or, if none, then the lateral boundary lines of the roadways of two highways which join one another at, or approximately at, right angles, or the area within which vehicles traveling upon different highways joining at any other angle may come in conflict.
B) Where a highway includes two roadways 30 feet or more apart, then every crossing of each roadway of such divided highway by an intersection highway shall be regarded as a separate intersection. In the event such intersecting highway also includes two roadways 30 feet or more apart, then every crossing of two roadways of such highways shall be regarded as a separate intersection.
C) The junction of an alley with a street or highway shall not constitute an intersection.
40-6-203. Stopping or parking a vehicle prohibited:
a) Except when necessary to avoid conflict with other traffic, or in compliance with law or the direction of a police officer or official traffic-control device, no person shall:
(1) Stop, stand, or park a vehicle:
(A) On the roadway side of any vehicle stopped or parked at the edge of a curb of a street;
(B) On a sidewalk;
(C) Within an intersection;
(D) On a crosswalk;
(2) Stand or park a vehicle, whether occupied or not, except momentarily to pick up or discharge a passenger or passengers:
(A) In front of a public or private driveway
(B) Within 15 feet of a fire hydrant;
(C) Within 20 feet of a crosswalk at an intersection
(D) Within 30 feet upon the approach to any flashing signal, stop signal, yield sign, or traffic-control signal located at the side of a roadway.
40-6-144. Emerging from alley, driveway, or building:The driver of a vehicle emerging from an alley, building, private road, or driveway within a business or residential district shall stop such vehicle immediately prior to driving onto a sidewalk or onto the sidewalk area extending across such alley, building entrance, road, or driveway or, in the even there is no sidewalk area, shall stop at the point nearest the street to be entered where the driver has a view of approaching traffic thereon. The driver of a vehicle shall yield the right of way to any pedestrian on a sidewalk. No person shall drive any vehicle upon a sidewalk or sidewalk area except upon a permanent or duly authorized driveway.
When to consult an pedestrian accident lawyer near you
Walking is something that we should do more of—for health, savings and our community. But we all need to stay alert and aware as pedestrians and drivers, especially in high traffic areas. Georgia law offers some protection to pedestrians, but ultimately we are responsible for our own safety.
If you or a loved one are injured in a pedestrian accident in Georgia, you likely face a difficult legal battle to establish liability and secure damages from the at-fault individual or an insurance company. At Scholle Law, our Atlanta auto accident attorneys fully understand Georgia law when it comes to pedestrian right of way and the duty of care all Georgia citizens have to one another.