My wife jogs approximately 5 miles every morning in a suburban area where there are limited shoulders or pavements. Every day I tell her that I am worried about her and that there is an accident waiting to happen.
Unfortunately, over the three decades I have been practicing catastrophic injury and car accidents law in Pennsylvania, I have been contacted by the families of pedestrians who were killed while walking adjacent to the roadway due to the negligence of another. Every day, many children walk to school and it is important to have proper sidewalks, curb cuts, and other roadway improvements to enable safe pedestrian and driver behavior.
More than 12% of all pedestrian fatalities occur on road shoulders. 88% of the fatalities occur after dark with more than half on non-lighted highway sections, and about 1/3 of all fatally injured pedestrians have been drinking. Add driver distraction due to cell phones in the mix, and the driver is 4 times more likely to get into a serious crash.
Pennsylvania has definitive rules to protect pedestrians, but keep in mind that pedestrians must also observe rules of the road to protect themselves. When traffic controls are not in place, or not in operation, the driver of the vehicle shall yield the right-of-way to pedestrians crossing the roadway within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection. A pedestrian should always keep in mind that they must walk defensively and that drivers may not see them.
If pedestrians are not within a crosswalk, Pennsylvania law states that they are not to suddenly step off a curb or sidewalk and run into the path of an oncoming vehicle, and the pedestrian is empowered with the responsibility to make sure oncoming traffic is still at a safe distance to be able to make a safe and complete stop. If there is a sidewalk in place, pedestrians are required to make use of the sidewalk and are not permitted to walk on the adjacent roadway. When a sidewalk is not available, any pedestrian walking along the roadway must remain on the shoulder as far as possible from the edge of the roadway and must yield the right-of-right to all vehicles on the roadway. Typically, at least 4 feet is suggested. This imposes the burden of safety on the pedestrian when walking along the roadway. However, motorists must still exercise due care to protect the pedestrian.
A common sense reminder is that both pedestrians and operators of motor vehicles may be distracted in our age of cell phone usage and we must all exercise due care when operating our vehicles or walking or jogging on roadways.
Pennsylvania personal injury and car accident lawyer Jeffrey M. Reiff has litigated automobile pedestrian car accident cases throughout Pennsylvania for over three decades.