You Aren’t Required to Watch Every Step

Where do you look when you walk?  It usually depends on the environment.

If you’re hiking through the forest you’re going to be looking a short distance ahead (because you don’t know whether there might be a root, hole or other hazard).  But in a “built” environment (like in a shopping mall or on a sidewalk) you’re going to look significantly farther forward.

The Washington Supreme Court understands this reality and has basically beat-down the insurance companies’ refrain that injured people should have been looking straight down at their feet.

Prudent care for one’s own safety should not and does not entail rigid fixation of one’s eyes on the pathway, sidewalk, rug, or stairs ahead in the sense that one need keep a constant watch for any danger that might lurk in the next step. Where no danger is apparent, it is a matter of common experience – even in walking up stairs – that one who keeps a reasonable watch for his own safety will simply engage in intermittent glances at the path ahead in order to anticipate protruding obstacles, such as new carpeting.  The law requires no higher duty of care, and certainly does not require one to keep his or her eyes fixed on the floor immediately ahead.

Watching where you walk doesn’t mean looking straight down at your feet.

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