Monday, April 25, 2011

Maybe Doorings Are Accidents...

The Chicago Tribune reports today that IDOT will now keep track of doorings. Previously, IDOT had refused to consider doorings accidents, therefore, no statistics exist on doorings. This is a positive change, which may affect the availability of federal funds for driver education and other efforts in attempt to reduce doorings.

I have long estimated that about one third of all bicycle collisions in Chicago are doorings. It appears that in the future we will have an opportunity to see if my estimates hold true.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Pedestrians and Signals...

Last night I received a call from a former client who wanted to know if cars are required to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk against a don't walk signal. My client had heard interpretations of the new "stop and yield" law that suggest that drivers are required to stop and yield to pedestrians in any marked crosswalk despite the signal indication. The answer is: It's not that simple.

Illinois law was amended recently to require drivers to not only yield, but also to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks.

625 ILCS 5/11‑1002 (a) When traffic control signals are not in place or not in operation the driver of a vehicle shall stop and yield the right‑of‑way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a crosswalk when the pedestrian is upon the half of the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling, or when the pedestrian is approaching so closely from the opposite half of the roadway as to be in danger.

Even if (hypothetically speaking) cars are required to yield to pedestrians regardless of the traffic signal, Illinois law specifically prohibits pedestrians from crossing the street against a don't walk signal.

625 ILCS 5/11‑1001 (a) A pedestrian shall obey the instructions of any official traffic control device specifically applicable to him, unless otherwise directed by a police officer.

Further, Illinois law prohibits pedestrians from walking into traffic.

625 ILCS 5/11‑1002 (b) No pedestrian shall suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a moving vehicle which is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard.

If you are hit by a car while crossing against a don't walk sign, you can expect the driver to raise the issue of your statutory violation as a defense. It is my experience that such defenses are effective absent evidence that the driver saw the pedestrian and disregarded him/her. So while it might not be right for a driver to disregard a pedestrian simply becuase the pedestrian has a "don't walk" signal, it also isn't right for a pedestrian to enter the street against a don't walk signal.

People often pose these academic questions about the application of civil law, but my response is often one of practicality. "Assume you're right... is it worth it if you're dead or injured?" You'll be in the legal right if you're hit while crossing in a marked crosswalk, notwithstanding any other traffic violations, and I'll be in a perfect position to bring a case or claim against the driver for your injuries. If such an unfortunate circumstance ever comes to pass a good lawyer can take care of the financial aspects of things to the extent of the law, but no lawyer can make you whole again. Nothing is worth a permanent injury or loss of life. Every person I've ever known with a permanent disability would rather be whole than "have a case."

Play it smart at intersections and crosswalks alike. My experience is that drivers almost always disregard the "stop and yield" requirement at crosswalks. Better to be safe than dead, so don't walk out into traffic just becuase of a legal principle, always keep your wits about you and watch for approaching traffic when crossing the street and obey traffic signals.