West Virginia has laws that apply to pedestrians' use of the road. These laws are designed to make sure pedestrians can safely share the road with other drivers. For example, Article 10 of Chapter 17C of the West Virginia Code states that pedestrians are subject to traffic control signals at crosswalks, but have the right-of-way if there aren't traffic control signals in place at designated crossing areas. If a pedestrian crosses outside of a crosswalk, the pedestrian has to yield to vehicles.
Article 10 also makes clear that drivers have obligations. In fact, §17C-10-4 states: "every driver of a vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian upon any roadway and shall give warning by sounding the horn when necessary and shall exercise proper precaution upon observing any child or any confused or incapacitated person upon a roadway."
If a driver doesn't exercise due care and a pedestrian collision occurs, the driver can be held accountable for any losses that result from his actions. This means if a driver hits a pedestrian, the driver could be liable for the pedestrian's injuries and losses due to the pedestrian accident.
West Virginia's rules focus on who has the right-of-way because many pedestrian accidents happen when drivers are supposed to stop but fail to do so. Accidents also happen routinely in situations where walkers step out onto the road in front of cars. By making it clear who is supposed to yield, the law aims to establish an orderly sharing of the road.
Unfortunately, even with laws designed to prevent pedestrian accidents, collisions still occur and cause harm to walkers in West Virginia. Drivers and walkers need to take precautions in order to avoid accidents and stay safe. For example, drivers should:
- Pay careful attention to the road always, but especially in areas where pedestrians are likely to be. As school starts, it will be important for drivers to look out for children in school zones and residential areas as these children walk to school or get on buses.
- Avoid high-risk behaviors. Drinking and driving, drowsy driving, and distracted driving are all high-risk behaviors which could make it far more likely for a driver to strike a pedestrian.
- Go the speed limit or slower. Drivers who go faster are far more likely to seriously hurt or kill pedestrians. AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety estimated a 10 percent chance of serious injury for pedestrians if hit by a car going 16 MPH and a 90 percent chance of serious injury when hit by a car going 46 MPH. At 23 MPH, a pedestrian has a 10 percent chance of death when hit by a car. At 58 MPH, the chance a striking car will kill a pedestrian goes up to 90 percent.
Pedestrians also should ensure they wear reflective clothing when walking at night, and should ensure they obey all traffic signals and do not walk out into the middle of the road outside of designated crossing areas.