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North Carolina Pedestrians Need to Stay Street Smart
Whitley Law Firm

In 2017 alone, 2,597 pedestrians in North Carolina were injured by cars, and another 197 were killed. These statistics have led to North Carolina being ranked 16th in pedestrian fatality rates by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Mitra Hekmat Najib, a 21-year-old student at Wake Technical Community College, became one of the thousands of pedestrians injured by motor-vehicles in North Carolina each year when a car struck her while it was moving at 10 miles per hour. Ben Whitley of Whitley Law Firm was able to negotiate a settlement with the driver’s insurance for her broken hand, but Najib is left with a fear of walking along roads. She now drives everywhere, even if she is only going a short distance down the road. Fortunately, she was not one of the hundreds whose lives are taken in such accidents.

While there are many proposed solutions, there is no quick fix to the dangerous problem. Even as there is increasing awareness of the environmental and health benefits of walking or taking public transportation that might involve some amount of walking, North Carolina is struggling to accommodate its pedestrians. According to Erik Landfried, who works for the regional public transport system GoTriangle, some of the potential solutions involve increasing crosswalks and sidewalks so the pedestrians feel safe. In an interview with the News and Observer, Landfried also explained the concept of “design speed,” which is how fast or slow drivers will feel comfortable going on a road. He advocates for decreasing the number of lanes and avoiding one-way streets with a wide-open feeling, as well as making sure the existing crosswalks are painted with bright diagonal stripes between the two lines that mark the crosswalk. Landfried’s last point of emphasis in the interview was the frequency of pedestrians being struck by turning vehicles. For that reason, he suggests limiting the availability of left turns and allowing cars to turn right during a red light.

Although North Carolina’s infrastructure struggles to balance the needs of pedestrians and busy drivers, there are several State statutes regarding the relationship. Because North Carolina is one of the last remaining states to use a contributory negligence system (essentially if someone is 1% at fault, the other party is not held liable for damages at all, even if they are 99% at fault) it is even more critical that pedestrians and vehicles abide by the laws. Otherwise, someone can end up injured and facing massive medical costs for an accident that was not his or her fault. Below is a list of relevant statutes provided by Watch For Me NC. The organization’s website provides useful resources and statistics for pedestrians, drivers, and cyclists.

Pedestrian Laws
· Pedestrians have the right of way at marked crossings
· Pedestrians must use marked crosswalks when they are provided
· When NOT at an intersection or marked crosswalk, pedestrians must yield the right of way to all vehicles
· Pedestrians must obey the “Walk” and “Don’t Walk” signs
· Pedestrians walking along the road must use sidewalks when available.
· When sidewalks are not available, pedestrians are to walk to the far left edge of the road facing traffic

Driver Laws
· Drivers must yield to pedestrians at marked crossings and crosswalks at intersections, except where there is a traffic or pedestrian signal
· Drivers must stop for pedestrians at stop signs, flashing red lights, and must yield for pedestrians at flashing yellow lights
· Drivers making right or left turns must allow pedestrians to cross first, unless pedestrians are prohibited from crossing.
· Pedestrians or bicyclists on sidewalks have the right of way
· State law prohibits drivers from passing vehicles stopped for pedestrians in crosswalks
· Drivers must ensure the road is clear of pedestrians before pulling forward or backing up

If you or a loved one have been involved in a pedestrian accident visit or call (919) 785-5000 for your free consultation regarding your potential case.

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