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Is Distracted Walking Dangerous?

Posted in Slip and Fall on December 12, 2019

You may be aware of the dangers of distracted driving, but not distracted walking. Distracted walking is behind thousands of pedestrian accidents, injuries and deaths each year. In 2016, 867 pedestrians died in traffic incidents in California alone. Over 14,000 others suffered injuries. If every pedestrian watched where he or she was walking, these numbers would shrink. Reduce your level of risk as a pedestrian by never walking distracted.

What Is Distracted Walking?

Distracted walking means to focus on something other than your surroundings as a pedestrian. You could engage in distracted walking while looking down at your cellphone, texting, scrolling through social media, making a phone call, chatting with friends, eating, drinking, looking at a map, listening to music or thinking about something else. Anything that distracts you visually or cognitively while walking through California can be dangerous.

Unlike distracted driving, no laws exist to prevent you from distracted walking in California. The only person you could hurt is yourself, other than causing possible property damage and emotional trauma for the driver that strikes you. It is important, however, not to walk distracted if you wish to avoid serious injuries. Walking or jogging while distracted can make it impossible to notice signs of danger, such as a light turning red, a crosswalk signal changing or a speeding driver. You may not be able to see or hear a hazard until it is too late.

Pedestrian Responsibilities in California

Right-of-way is not automatic for pedestrians in California. This misconception is what leads many pedestrians to not pay attention to where they are going. They assume they have the right-of-way and that drivers will stop when they step onto the road. This incorrect assumption has contributed to thousands of pedestrian injuries and deaths. Pedestrians must share the road with motor vehicle drivers, including yielding the right-of-way when applicable.

A pedestrian will have the right-of-way at a nonsignalized intersection or crosswalk. A pedestrian may not, however, step out if a vehicle is too close to reasonably come to a stop. A pedestrian must wait on the curb until it is safe to cross the road. A pedestrian will not automatically have the right-of-way at an intersection or crosswalk that has a traffic control device. The pedestrian must wait until given the signal to cross, such as the WALK sign or a green light.

Pedestrians have a responsibility to pay attention to the road, obey applicable road signs and follow traffic laws while walking around California. Breaching this responsibility by breaking the rules or walking distracted could lead to a preventable pedestrian collision. If you stepped out into the road when you should not have because of a distraction, the driver may not be liable for your injuries. This means you could end up paying out of pocket.

Fault for a Pedestrian Accident

California’s tort-based insurance laws hold that in a pedestrian-vehicle collision, the party most at fault for causing the accident will be liable for damages. An investigation of the crash will determine whether you or the driver was at fault for the accident. If you both share fault, this can reduce your recovery award by your percentage of fault. If the courts find you entirely at fault for walking in front of an oncoming vehicle while distracted, however, you may not recover any money for your damages. Instead, you will be personally responsible for paying for your medical bills, lost wages and other damages.

Protect yourself physically and financially by never walking distracted in California. Keep your eyes on the sidewalk or crosswalk ahead and avoid using headphones while you walk. Always stop before crossing the street to look both ways, even if you have the right-of-way. Distracted or reckless drivers may not stop to let you cross the road. If you get into an accident while walking distracted, hire an attorney to help you maximize your recovery award.

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