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Put your phone away and look up!

Distracted driving and distracted walking can cause serious injury to you or someone else.

Recently, there was a tragic and fatal pedestrian accident near our office in the far north end of Belltown in Seattle.  The collision occurred at 1st and Broad, in a crosswalk during daylight hours.  A pedestrian stepped into a crosswalk and was struck by an 85 year old driver.  Whether the driver was distracted or the pedestrian was distracted isn’t important for this article.  As the season changes, weather worsens, and with daylight savings time approaching, it’s dark at the end of the work day. Vigilance is required for both pedestrians and drivers.

We know about distracted drivers.  The media covers reports of people texting while driving and their distracted driving causing accidents.  What about distracted walkers?  As I was thinking about this article, I noticed distracted pedestrians – people walking and texting or looking down at their phone.  While generally pedestrians have the right of way, some pedestrians take that for granted and have a false sense of security – that drivers are paying attention and they (pedestrians) don’t have to.  They also seem to take for granted (incorrectly) that they can be seen in our rainy gray climate while wearing their fashionable black, gray, or dark clothing.

Pedestrians seem in a hurry to try to beat the traffic light – they run across the street when the traffic light is yellow with a red “don’t walk” pedestrian signal.  Legally, this is jaywalking but it also can get a pedestrian seriously hurt.  They could be flirting with a two-ton vehicle driven by a distracted driver.  Pedestrian versus car is never a good idea.

Cars must stop for pedestrians.  Pedestrians have the right of way in marked and “unmarked crosswalks.”  Crosswalk is defined as:

The portion of the roadway between the intersection area and a prolongation or connection of the farthest sidewalk line or in the event there are no sidewalks then between the intersection area and a line ten feet therefrom, except as modified by a marked crosswalk.  RCW 46.04.160.

That’s right – all those side streets creating intersections without a “marked” crosswalk are “unmarked crosswalks” where the pedestrian has the right of way.  When approaching a marked or unmarked crosswalk, take special care if the car in the other lane is stopped.  They may be stopped to allow a pedestrian to cross the road.  The statute provides in section (4) if you are overtaking a vehicle stopped to allow a pedestrian to cross, “the driver of any other vehicles approaching from the rear shall not overtake and pass such stopped vehicle.” RCW 46.61.235.   Failure to yield will result in pedestrian injury, a ticket, and possible criminal charges for the driver who failed to yield.

Pedestrians also have obligations under the law.  They are prohibited from suddenly walking or running in front of a car “which is so close that it is impossible for the driver to stop.”  (RCW 46.61.235 (2)).   RCW 46.61.240 prohibits jaywalking. Section (5) requires that “every pedestrian crossing a roadway at any point other than in a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection shall yield the right of way to all vehicles upon the roadway.”

There are many other rules that govern driver/pedestrian safety.  Some can be found at  Another great article that discusses the risks and increased injuries seen due to pedestrian inattention is; -while-walking-causes-accidents-031014

Kathleen Kindred is a partner at The Walthew Law Firm and practices Workers’ Compensation and Personal Injury Law.

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