Pedestrians, Parking Lots, and Preoccupation: Disasters Waiting to Happen
We’ve all heard it before: “Pedestrians always have the right of way.” In fact, this rather presumptuous statement is not entirely accurate. Although pedestrians are more fragile than vehicles, this doesn’t mean that they’re always the victims in a pedestrian accident. Yes, they’ll most likely suffer from more severe injuries than a driver, but if they didn’t have the right of way, then they may actually be liable for the collision.
There are many situations where pedestrians do indeed have the right-of-way, however. These include:
- When facing a "Walk" signal and crossing the street in the direction of the signal.
- When crossing the street in a marked crosswalk where there isn’t a stop light or sign. This does not mean, however, that you can suddenly leave the curb and jump into a crosswalk so quickly that a driver is not able to stop for you.
- When walking on a sidewalk that crosses the entrance of an alley or roadway.
- When walking through a parking lot.
Although it may provide comfort when pursuing an injury claim, having the right of way won’t diminish the pain and suffering of a pedestrian accident. This is why it is important to understand where the potential threats can come from, and how to avoid them when walking near roadways and in parking lots.
Potential Parking Lot Disasters
Between older drivers trying to maneuver in tight spaces, and distracted drivers fighting to get the best spot, parking lots can be dangerous places for pedestrians. Common parking lot issues displayed by both young and old drivers alike include the following.
- Pedal confusion. Whether a driver is just learning to drive, has been driving for 20 years, or is beginning to forget how to drive, confusing the gas pedal with the brake pedal is an alarmingly common mistake in parking lots. As the driver attempts to inch in or out of a spot, he must switch between the gas and brake several times, causing confusion over which one needs to be pressed and when. As a result, the driver may want to brake when he sees you coming, but pushes the gas and runs into you instead.
- Driver inattention or distraction. Parking lots are filled with lots of distractions, including pedestrians, runaway carts, other vehicles, and lots of noise. Focusing on maneuvering the car while so much is going on is difficult for just about any driver, especially when their focus is placed more on objects within their car, rather than the potential collision areas around their car.
- Vision problems. Checking blind spots can be difficult for drivers for a number of reasons. As a result, pedestrians, bikers, signs, and signals that are on the edge of the field of vision are often missed crashed into.
When walking in a parking lot or along a street, it’s easy to let your mind wander. Being distracted by your phone and not paying attention to what is going on around you can place you in harm’s way. This is why as a pedestrian you need to protect yourself by:
- Paying attention. Rather than occasionally looking up to see if a light has changed, put your full attention on the traffic that surrounds you. Just because a light says you can go, doesn’t mean all traffic has stopped. You need to make sure that the path is clear before you start walking.
- Looking before you leap. When crossing the street, you need to look both ways, whether you have the right of way or not. Slippery conditions and driver distractions can cause a driver to run a red light or skid into a crosswalk.
- Anticipating danger. As a pedestrian, you need to have a sort of sixth sense about if or when a car will move. Although this is important at crosswalks, it is essential when walking in parking lots.
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