Crosswalks at Uncontrolled Intersections Increase Risk to Pedestrians

Posted on in Personal Injury

Crosswalks are designed to give pedestrians a place to safely cross to the other side of the street. A recent California case has examined the safety of crosswalks at uncontrolled intersections. Emily Liou was crossing over State Route 82 in Millbrae in the evening. The intersection has six lanes of traffic, a raised median, but no traffic signals. While using the crosswalk, she was hit by a car. She suffered serious injuries, which will require round-the-clock care for the rest of her life.

The lawsuit filed by her family alleged that the crosswalk actually made her less safe as she crossed the road. Liou's attorneys examined the safety of the crosswalk. Caltrans was told by legislators to make pedestrian safety a high priority prior to Liou's accident. Caltrans did not study the crosswalk where Liou was injured. Caltrans was found negligent and was ordered to pay the family more than $12 million in damages.

False Sense of Security?

A 2005 study by the Federal Highway Administration examined the dangers of crosswalks at uncontrolled intersections. The study examined both the type of crosswalk, marked or unmarked, and whether or not the intersection had traffic lights. Results concluded that those roads with three to eight lanes of traffic, with raised medians as well as marked crosswalks, like State Route 82, had a much higher rate of injury than those with unmarked crossings. The FHA recommended that for these types of intersections, marked crosswalks alone are not enough. Traffic signals, raised medians, curb extensions or other practical solutions should be implemented to ensure pedestrian safety.

While California requires vehicles to stop for pedestrians in a crosswalk, often, this does not occur. Drivers sometimes do not see pedestrians or are unaware of the rule. Pedestrians in a crosswalk crossing according to traffic rules are not automatically safe from harm. What can be done to increase safety? Organizations like Caltrans need to make sure the crosswalk they have for a particular intersection is designed properly, or they could find themselves liable for injuries to pedestrians.

Pedestrians also need to take proactive steps to remain safe, when using a crosswalk, including:

  • Pay close attention to traffic
  • Be alert for turning vehicles, do not assume a vehicle will stop for you
  • Wear reflective clothing, when walking at night, so that other drivers can see you
  • Try to cross with others to make yourself more visible
  • Try to familiarize yourself with the intersection to learn of any potentially dangerous attributes
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