Pedestrians are key participants in our transportation system. A trip taken by foot requires no gas, creates no emissions, reduces traffic congestion and even improves the individual’s health. Just as they share the road with other cars, it is important for motorists to stay alert to the presence of pedestrians. Every mode of travel has equal priority on the road, and it is the motorist’s responsibility to yield to a pedestrian.
Any person on foot, such as a runner, walker or a mother with a stroller, is a pedestrian. A pedestrian can also be someone who uses roller skates and skateboards or a person with a disability on a tricycle, quadricycle or in a wheelchair. It is your responsibility as a driver to be on the lookout and to take every precaution possible not to injure a person on foot. If you see a vehicle, pedestrian or children near the road, you should slow down and be prepared to stop.
There are three types of persons who most often become pedestrian fatalities: the small child, the older person and the drinking public. In the case of very young children, a responsible driver will always check around his car before getting into it to be sure no child is in the vehicle’s path. Walking from behind parked cars is a very common action in fatal accidents involving a pedestrian. All three types of pedestrians that we mentioned commit this dangerous action. A child chasing a ball gives no thought to an oncoming car. His mind is strictly on play, and he may dart into the street quite suddenly. Some older people may not be able to move as quickly as younger persons, and they may have sight or hearing impairments, making it difficult for them to see a car or to judge its distance. A drinking pedestrian may have his senses and his judgment impaired.
As a responsible driver, you should always slow down and be prepared to stop quickly when you are driving on streets lined with parked cars. You must also react in the same manner when you come upon any situation where people are gathered alongside of the street or highway on which you are traveling. Night is a particularly dangerous time on rural highways for pedestrians. Sounding the horn of your car as a warning is always a good idea when you are faced with a vehicle-pedestrian collision. It may warn the person on foot in time for him to stop or move out of the road. The law acts to regulate pedestrians’ actions as well as your actions as a motorist.
At the crosswalk you should yield by slowing or stopping for a pedestrian who is on your side of the roadway, or who is close enough to your side to be in danger. Unless they are at an intersection or within a marked crosswalk, pedestrians must yield to vehicles. Pedestrians must walk facing traffic. In entering an intersection on a green signal, a driver making a right or left turn is required by law to yield to pedestrians on the cross street lawfully within the intersection. Do not stop in a crosswalk.
Blind pedestrians have special protection under the law. South Carolina law requires that a driver must stop and yield the right of way to a blind person who has entered a street carrying a white cane or is accompanied by a guide dog.
Whether the pedestrian is handicapped or not, you as a driver should always be willing to give the pedestrian the right of way, regardless of whether he has it or not. Again, slow down and keep a watchful eye in all areas where pedestrians are located—urban areas, around schools and institutions and street and highway intersections—and all other places where groups may be congregated.
Take your responsibility seriously; keep your eyes open for him. After all, every person is a pedestrian at one time or another...and that includes you.