There has been a spike in pedestrian deaths in North Carolina (and almost every other state in the country) and smartphones could be one of the culprits. Everyone has seen someone walking down the street with their nose buried in their phone, and not looking where they’re going. This issue is a big problem when it comes to pedestrian crossings. Pedestrians getting hit by vehicles is steadily on the rise. Popular belief is that smartphones are the reason, whether the driver or pedestrian is at fault.
There are a few different things going on at today’s crosswalks. The pedestrian has the right-of-way. More often than not, as I stand at the very well-marked crossings in downtown Holly Springs, 3 to 5 cars will not even slow down for the crosswalk, let alone stop. Again – THE PEDESTRIAN HAS THE RIGHT-OF-WAY! I don’t know if it’s a blatant disregard for the law, not being familiar with the law, or not paying attention.
That brings me to the next concern. The pedestrian may not be paying attention. They know they have the right-of -way, and don’t look up from their phone to make sure that the vehicles are stopping when they’re supposed to be.
That brings me to the third issue. Drivers that are not paying attention to the traffic as they post that all-important Facebook update, Instagram message or text that can’t wait until they’ve parked someplace.
Needless to say, there are a lot of ways that the situation can go south quickly. I stop at all crosswalks. When I stop, I’m actually scared if there is a vehicle behind me, that I might get rear-ended. There is no excuse for drivers not stopping for a marked crosswalk when someone is ready to cross. Did you know that a legal crosswalk is anywhere where a sidewalk connects to the street on both sides of a road? That means that even if it’s not an intersection, if the sidewalk creates a path across a road, it’s a crosswalk.
Although the official laws may be a bit cumbersome to read, it’s good to know the laws, so I’ve listed them. Please take a minute to familiarize yourself with the laws.
§ 20-172. Pedestrians subject to traffic-control signals.
(a) The Board of Transportation, with reference to State highways, and local authorities, with reference to highways under their jurisdiction, are hereby authorized to erect or install, at intersections or other appropriate places, special pedestrian control signals exhibiting the words or symbols “WALK” or “DON’T WALK” as a part of a system of traffic-control signals or devices.
(b) Whenever special pedestrian-control signals are in place, such signals shall indicate as follows:
(1) WALK. – Pedestrians facing such signal may proceed across the highway in the direction of the signal and shall be given the right-of-way by the drivers of all vehicles.
(2) DON’T WALK. – No pedestrian shall start to cross the highway in the direction of such signal, but any pedestrian who has partially completed his crossing on the “WALK” signal shall proceed to a sidewalk or safety island while the “DON’T WALK” signal is showing.
(c) Where a system of traffic-control signals or devices does not include special pedestrian-control signals, pedestrians shall be subject to the vehicular traffic-control signals or devices as they apply to pedestrian traffic.
(d) At places without traffic-control signals or devices, pedestrians shall be accorded the privileges and shall be subject to the restrictions stated in Part 11 of this Article. (1937, c. 407, s. 133; 1973, c. 507, s. 5; c. 1330, s. 31; 1987, c. 125.)
§ 20-173. Pedestrians’ right-of-way at crosswalks.
(a) Where traffic-control signals are not in place or in operation the driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way, slowing down or stopping if need be to so yield, to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at or near an intersection, except as otherwise provided in Part 11 of this Article.
(b) Whenever any vehicle is stopped at a marked crosswalk or at any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection to permit a pedestrian to cross the roadway, the driver of any other vehicle approaching from the rear shall not overtake and pass such stopped vehicle.
(c) The driver of a vehicle emerging from or entering an alley, building entrance, private road, or driveway shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian, or person riding a bicycle, approaching on any sidewalk or walkway extending across such alley, building entrance, road, or driveway. (1937, c. 407, s. 134; 1973, c. 1330, s. 32.)
§ 20-174. Crossing at other than crosswalks; walking along highway.
(a) Every pedestrian crossing a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles upon the roadway.
(b) Any pedestrian crossing a roadway at a point where a pedestrian tunnel or overhead pedestrian crossing has been provided shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles upon the roadway.
(c) Between adjacent intersections at which traffic-control signals are in operation pedestrians shall not cross at any place except in a marked crosswalk.
(d) Where sidewalks are provided, it shall be unlawful for any pedestrian to walk along and upon an adjacent roadway. Where sidewalks are not provided, any pedestrian walking along and upon a highway shall, when practicable, walk only on the extreme left of the roadway or its shoulder facing traffic which may approach from the opposite direction. Such pedestrian shall yield the right-of-way to approaching traffic.
(e) Notwithstanding the provisions of this section, 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. (1937, c. 407, s. 135; 1973, c. 1330, s. 33.)
I hope that this has been educational and/or enlightening. As the weather continues to get nicer, there are going to be more and more people walking. Please keep pedestrians in mind, and if you’re a pedestrian, put the phone down, take off the headphones when you need to, and be alert. You could save your own life.