Pedestrian Injuries and Car Accidents – What every driver and pedestrian should know

November 14, 2016

In South Carolina, both pedestrians and drivers have rights and responsibilities under South Carolina’s Uniform Act Regulating Traffic on Highways.

Pedestrians and Drivers Defined

A “pedestrian” is defined in South Carolina law as “any person afoot.”  A “driver” is defined in South Carolina law as “Every person who drives or is in actual physical control of a vehicle.”   “Actual physical control” is a legal concept that governs laws regarding driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol and does not have any bearing on our discussion of pedestrian and driver rights and responsibilities.  For the purposes of this entry, a driver is “every person who is driving.”

Duties of Drivers

Drivers are to “exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian.”      

  • Duties of drivers at traffic lights. In South Carolina, drivers have a duty to yield the right of way to pedestrians who are within an intersection crossing at a green light.  This is true for any intersection, regardless of whether there is a crosswalk at the intersection.  Similarly, drivers taking a right turn on a red light, or drivers taking a left turn from a one way street onto another one way street on a red light are to yield the right of way to pedestrians in the crosswalk.
  • Duties of drivers to pedestrians crossing the street without a traffic light. There are two types of street crossings without traffic lights.  Street crossings within a crosswalk, and street crossing where there is no crosswalk.  When pedestrians cross a street within a crosswalk, drivers must yield to the pedestrian either when the pedestrian is in the half of the crosswalk that is on the driver’s side of the road or where the pedestrian is approaching the driver’s half of the crosswalk from the opposite side of the road, and is so close that the pedestrian would be in danger if the driver did not slow or stop his vehicle.
  • Duties of drivers with regard to speed. Everyone knows drivers have a duty not to exceed the speed limit.  However, the speed limit is merely the maximum allowable speed on any given roadway.  Drivers have a duty not to travel at a speed “greater than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions.”  For example, on any given day, 30 miles per hour may be a perfectly appropriate rate of speed.  However, during a rare South Carolina snow storm, 30 miles per hour is probably not “reasonable and prudent under the conditions.”  Additionally, a driver’s speed “must be so controlled to avoid colliding with a person.”  Drivers have a duty to use care when driving, to protect themselves, others, and other property, including vehicles.
  • Duties of drivers not to be unreasonably dangerous. There are a broad range of other types of misbehavior that drivers can engage in that will breach the duty of care drivers have.  For example, driving drunk, or under the influence of illegal substances violates the duty of care.  Even if you are taking a medication by prescription and under doctor’s orders, if it impairs your judgement or your response time, you cannot engage in driving.  To do so would be to violate the duty of care.  Drivers need to be mindful of other dangerous activities.  For example, attempting to remove a sweater or coat while driving could result in a distraction that would violate the duty of care.  Texting or playing a game on your phone while driving is also considered distracted driving that could be considered a violation of the duty of care.  Finally, while probably everyone who has driven a car for more than a few months has done so while tired, there are situations where a reasonably prudent person would know that driving while drowsy could violate the duty of care drivers have.

Duties of Pedestrians            

  • Duties of pedestrians at traffic lights. Pedestrians are instructed not to begin to cross a roadway on a steady yellow traffic light.  Pedestrians are also prohibited from crossing an intersection with a steady red light or red arrow.
  • Duty of pedestrians at crosswalks where there is no traffic light. If a pedestrian seeks to cross a street in the crosswalk, they have the right of way, and drivers must yield to them.  This right of way, however, is not absolute.  Pedestrians are also expected to exercise due care.  As such, they cannot just suddenly leave the curb into the path of oncoming traffic, where that traffic is so close that the pedestrian creates an immediate hazard to themselves, the driver, and other surrounding traffic.

If there is no crosswalk at a given intersection, or the pedestrian seeks to cross a street in the middle of the block, for example, the pedestrian has an obligation to yield the right of way to all vehicles on the roadway.  If the intersections at each end of a block have traffic lights, pedestrians are prohibited from crossing in the middle of the block.

  • Duties of pedestrian while walking. Duties differ depending upon the presence of a sidewalk.            
  • Sidewalks. When there is a sidewalk, pedestrians are expected to use it whenever practicable.  In fact, it is unlawful for a pedestrian to walk on or along a roadway when a sidewalk is available for use.
  • Where there is no sidewalk. When no sidewalk is available, pedestrians have a duty to walk on the shoulder, as far from traffic as practicable.  If there is neither a sidewalk, nor a shoulder, a pedestrian is bound to walk as close to the outside edge of the roadway as possible.  Additionally, in that situation, the pedestrian should walk on the left side of the road.

If You Are an Injured Pedestrian, or If Your Loved One Was Killed as a Pedestrian. . .

If you have been injured, or lost a loved one as a pedestrian, you need competent representation.  You may be able to sue the driver, or driver’s insurance company to compensate you.  Types of compensation could include reimbursement for medical costs, pain and suffering, emotional distress, and other types of losses.  Contact the determined Lugoff, South Carolina auto accident attorneys of Connell Law Firm to discuss your pedestrian injuries at no cost.