In a typical car accident involving a pedestrian, the law tends to side with the pedestrian since they have less ability to cause damage and are more likely to be hurt. However, when there is a car accident involving a pedestrian that takes place on a freeway or interstate highway, things become a little more complicated. This is because pedestrians have a duty to take reasonable precautions for their safety, and they have somewhat failed in this if they are on the highway.
This blog will provide a brief overview into the law when it comes to pedestrian incidents on California freeways and interstate highways (SR-1 through SR 905, I-5, I-15, and I-580), and how liability is usually determined.
Is Walking On The Highway Illegal In California?
States have varying laws regarding pedestrian traffic on highways. For instance, in Georgia, pedestrians can walk along a highway shoulder. In New York, pedestrians can use the left side of the roadway or shoulder. In California, the Department of Transportation and local authorities reserve the rights to prohibit or restrict the use of freeways. Therefore, walking on the highway is illegal where marked.
What was the reason for the pedestrian on the highway?
Pedestrians being involved in accidents on the highway are surprisingly common and account for over 10% of all pedestrian deaths. This is mostly because of the extremely high speeds that occur on such roads. There are ultimately five typical scenarios for pedestrian accidents on the highway.
1) Entering To Cross The Highway
While it may seem difficult to believe, the largest cause of pedestrian accidents on the highway are pedestrians who try to walk across it. There are highways such as the Great Highway in San Francisco that do have crosswalks, but in most cases, highways weren’t designed to be crossed by pedestrians. The speed at which vehicles travel on the highway creates a dangerous environment for those traveling by foot. Many motorists aren’t able to completely stop their vehicles in time.
2) Walking The Highway After Dark
According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, 74% of fatal pedestrian accidents occur after dark, making it the most deadly time for a pedestrian to be out crossing streets. There are a number of contributing factors for pedestrian accidents at night. Factors include driver inattention, alcohol use, and suicidal behavior.
3) Pushing or Working On Vehicles
The highway is one of the worst places for your car to break down. When a car experiences mechanical issues, a driver may try to push the vehicle onto the shoulder to perform work or call for help. In these instances, accidents are likely to occur due to driver inattention, drowsiness, or intoxication.
4) Tending To A Crash or Previously Involved In One
When an accident occurs on the highway, individuals will leave their vehicles for a number of reasons. An accident victim may have been thrown out of the car. Individuals will also get out to exchange information, inspect damage, or wait for help. Rushing to help an accident victim is a courageous act, but rushing out help a victim on a busy highway may also put your life at risk. Poor lighting and driver inattention only increase the risk of fatality after a highway crash.
5) Walking or Standing On The Shoulder
Accidents that occur because of pedestrians along the shoulder are also fairly common. If a pedestrian is traveling along the shoulder they’re usually attempting to hitchhike or traverse the roadway illegally. Driver error and distraction are the major causes of these types of accidents.
How Do Drivers Cause Pedestrian Accidents On Highways?
While certain highway pedestrian accidents may be the fault of the pedestrian, there are actions motorists take that can also contribute to pedestrian accidents.
It’s incredibly unfortunate that drunk driving still occurs on California roadways. Intoxicated driving reduces vision and reaction times, which makes maneuvering around pedestrians even more difficult.
Inattention or Distracted Driving
It’s incredibly important to remain aware and alert while behind the wheel, especially on highways. Higher speeds increase the amount of time it takes to fully stop a vehicle. Drivers will need to be able to see hazards several seconds ahead of time in order to be able to avoid them.
Highways often do not have the same level of lighting as inner-city streets. When poor or low lighting is combined with inattention or distraction, the results can be disastrous.
Liability may not always fall on the driver or the pedestrian. In some cases, government authorities can be held liable for a crash. Highway design, construction, or repair issues can all contribute to a pedestrian accident.
Calculating liability After A Highway Pedestrian Accident
Although it is generally considered negligent for a pedestrian to be on the interstate highway, there are situations when pedestrians are entitled to a legal claim. This might be because there was a driver that acted in gross negligence or did not fulfill his or her duty in exercising reasonable care. In this case, a pedestrian may be able to make a claim for any injuries incurred.
Injured In A Highway Accident?
If you’ve been injured in a highway accident, Kuvara Law Firm can help. Our personal injury attorneys have over 40 years of experience helping injured Californians earn the compensation they deserve. Contact Kuvara Law Firm today to schedule a free initial consultation.