How to Determine Fault in Accidents Involving Cars and Pedestrians

Determining fault in a car accident is not always a simple task, particularly when the accident involves cars and pedestrians. In some instances, it may be the driver of the vehicle who is at fault, while in other cases it could be the pedestrian who is partially or wholly to blame. Both drivers and pedestrians bear a responsibility to exercise reasonable care when using or crossing North Carolina roads.

Pedestrian Rights and Responsibilities Under North Carolina Law

While North Carolina law gives pedestrians certain legal rights, with these rights come responsibilities. Pedestrians who do not act responsibly or fail to exercise caution when crossing the street or walking along a roadway, put themselves and others directly in harm’s way. According to the North Carolina Department of Transportation and our state’s General Statutes, pedestrians:

  • Have the right of way at all intersections and driveways.
  • Are required to use and adhere to pedestrian control signals, “WALK” and “DON’T WALK” signals, where available, according to GS 20-172.
  • Must yield to all vehicles when crossing the street at any point where no marked or unmarked crosswalk exists, as well as when walking on or along a highway according to GS 20.174.
  • Have a duty to look for oncoming vehicles before crossing the road.
  • Have a responsibility to exercise a reasonable amount of care for their own safety.
  • Should walk facing traffic whenever no sidewalk exists.
  • Are not allowed to stand, sit or lie down upon a road if doing so will impede the flow of traffic, according to GS 20-174.1. Violators could face Class 2 misdemeanor charges.

Pedestrians should also do what they can to avoid any distractions while walking. Distracted walking can be extremely dangerous and cause a pedestrian to suffer significant injury or harm. As long as pedestrians remain alert, follow the rules of the road and take action to protect themselves, their chances of being involved in a motor vehicle versus pedestrian accident can be dramatically reduced.

Drivers’ Responsibilities and Pedestrian Safety

Although pedestrians bear a particular responsibility in keeping themselves safe along state roads and highways, this does not negate the obligation drivers have to be responsible for pedestrian safety. Drivers who pay attention while driving, yield to pedestrians when required, travel at the posted speed limit, refrain from drinking and driving, and exercise other cautions can avoid causing serious injury or death in a car versus pedestrian accident.

If you are planning to get behind the wheel of a vehicle in North Carolina, take the time to familiarize yourself with the following North Carolina General Statutes, which cover important pedestrian laws:

  • GS 20-155. Right-of-way. Section (c) requires motor vehicle drivers, who are traveling along a highway within a business or residential district, to yield and give the right-of-way to pedestrians who are either crossing within a clearly marked crosswalk or crossing at a regular pedestrian crossing. The only exception is at intersection where traffic lights, devices or officers are assigned to regulate traffic flow.
  • GS 20-173. Pedestrians’ Right-of-Way at Crosswalks. Section (a) states that drivers must yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian using a marked crosswalk, unmarked crosswalk, or attempting to cross at or near an intersection when traffic signals either do not exist or are not functional. Section (b) requires that when drivers observe another vehicle coming to a stop at an intersection or crosswalk, they too must yield and not overtake or pass the other vehicle, as this is generally a sign the vehicle has stopped to yield right-of-way to a pedestrian.
  • GS 20-172. Pedestrians Subject to Traffic-Control Signals. When a pedestrian control signals indicates a pedestrian can “WALK” across the road, drivers of any vehicle must yield right-of-way.
  • GS 20-174. Crossing at other than crosswalks; walking along highway. Drivers who observe a pedestrian walking along the roadway must exercise caution and take care to avoid a collision. Drivers can use their horns to warn pedestrians of oncoming traffic. Drivers must also be careful when children, a confused individual or an incapacitated person is walking or playing along a roadside.

These laws can be used to help drivers determine fault in accidents involving cars and pedestrians. In cases where a pedestrian failed to adhere to pedestrian laws, he or she could be at fault for any injury, harm or loss caused. Should the driver violate any North Carolina pedestrian laws, it is the driver who can be held liable for his or her actions.


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