Washington pedestrian accidents: the basics

Washington pedestrians can be seriously injured or killed in traffic accidents.

There are many reasons why someone would choose to be a pedestrian in lieu of a motorist: rising costs of gas, routine maintenance and auto ownership; a desire for exercise, stress relief and other health benefits; concern for the environmental impact of automobiles and a willingness to make personal sacrifices to have a smaller carbon footprint; the convenience of urban living making it unnecessary to have a personal vehicle; nervousness behind the wheel following a car accident; and trouble with the law that leads to a suspended license.

As you can see, these choices may vary widely from person to person. Whatever your rationale, however, the fact remains that there are benefits to choosing to walk instead of drive.

That being said, there are also risks inherent with being a pedestrian, many of them due to the close proximity of bicycle, skateboard, scooter and vehicle traffic. This is borne out in data provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): on average, a pedestrian is injured every seven minutes in a traffic-related accident. Furthermore, one is killed every two hours. This translates into nearly 4,500 pedestrian fatalities annually, and more than 75,000 injuries.

Remembering the rules of the road

In Washington, as in most other states, pedestrians generally have the "right of way" on sidewalks and in crosswalks, but there are important rules of the road that pedestrians and drivers alike must keep in mind in order to decrease the chances that accidents will happen. For example, pedestrians should avoid the temptation to cross the street in the middle of traffic; darting out into traffic - even if the passage appears to be clear - is not only illegal in Washington (see Revised Code of Washington 46.61.235(2)), it makes it much more unlikely that a motorist will be able to take proper action to avoid an accident. This is particularly true at dusk/dawn, in inclement weather or when pedestrians are coming out from in between parked cars alongside the road, as these are all examples of times when it is already more difficult for drivers to see them.

In addition, pedestrians are responsible for following all traffic control signals and devices, including stop signs, stop lights, "walk"/"don't walk" signals, crosswalk countdowns and yield signs. Finally, if sidewalks or pathways aren't available for use, pedestrians should walk on the shoulder of the roadway facing oncoming traffic - not with the flow of traffic - and wear brightly colored or reflective clothing whenever possible.

Of course, drivers also have a responsibility to operate their vehicles in a safe manner when around pedestrians. This means remaining diligent during bad weather or in areas of high pedestrian traffic (school zones, shopping centers, parking lots, retail centers, etc.), obeying both marked and unmarked intersections/crosswalks and paying close attention at intersections, particularly when turning.

Tragically, in spite of your best efforts to be a safe pedestrian, the fact remains that these accidents happen, and that you are - due to how unprotected you are compared to the occupants of a vehicle - likely to be seriously injured if one should occur. If you or someone you love has been injured in a pedestrian accident, you may be able to bring a claim against the at-fault driver or a third party. For more information about your legal rights, speak with an experienced attorney. To contact Johnson Flora Sprangers PLLC, and talk to us about your potential pedestrian accident case, please call us at 866-894-1906. Our office is located in Seattle.

Keywords: pedestrian accident, personal injury, serious injury, catastrophic injury, fatal accident, wrongful death