A couple weeks ago, we covered what happens when a pedestrian gets hit while crossing against the light. Bottom line: The driver still has to yield to the pedestrian.
But what about jaywalking? Do the same rules apply?
Pedestrians aren’t supposed to cross in the middle of the street, just like they shouldn’t cross against the light. But at the same time, drivers aren’t supposed to hit them either.
The San Juan Islander recently reported on the death of a pedestrian crossing outside the crosswalk:
Bill Rayborn, 83, died at Harborview Medical Center after he was struck by a vehicle Wednesday evening in Friday Harbor.
The accident occurred as Rayborn, wearing dark clothing, was struck by a slow moving vehicle when crossing the street outside the designated area.
Who’s to blame? Mr. Rayborn crossed outside the crosswalk. But that driver who hit him had an obligation to make best efforts to avoid hitting Mr. Rayborn.
What are best efforts? There are really two parts. The first part is making best efforts to be aware of your surroundings and spot potential hazards. This is called the “duty to see” under Washington law. The second part is doing everything (reasonably) possible to avoid hitting someone with your car (braking, turning, honking, etc.).
In many cases where pedestrians are hit by cars, the driver isn’t paying attention. The fact that it was dark and rainy could mean visibility was poor, but it is still up to him or her to be vigilant, especially at night when the weather is bad. The same thing holds true when the sun is in the driver’s eyes. Reduced visibility or challenging conditions don’t lessen the protection given to pedestrians. Instead they require greater vigilance on the part of the driver. Common sense says that if you can’t see, you should stop or slow down.
The big take-aways are (1) that there’s probably a case even if the pedestrian was crossing improperly or outside a crosswalk and (2) in most of these cases the driver is likely distracted and either partially or totally at fault.