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Are Vancouver pedestrians safer at marked crosswalks than at unmarked crosswalks?

Unmarked crosswalk

Many roadways have designated and marked areas where pedestrians must cross, but not all crossing areas are marked with painted lines. Washington state law (RCW 46.61.235) requires that drivers stop and remain stopped when pedestrians and cyclists are crossing the street. This applies to both marked cross walks and unmarked crosswalks at intersections. Under RCW 46.61.240 pedestrians and bicyclists must yield to drivers when not using marked or unmarked crosswalks.

Pedestrians and drivers know how marked crosswalks work. But many road users may not be aware of what an unmarked crosswalk is or where they even exist. Under RCW 46.61.050, pedestrians and bicyclists are required to use traffic control devices in certain areas. These areas are primarily business districts, universities, or other parts of Vancouver with heavy foot traffic. Unmarked crosswalks exist at intersections where there are sidewalks but no painted lines in the road. These are generally found in residential areas or other roadways that get less foot traffic.

Safety issues involving unmarked crosswalks

The biggest risk pedestrians and bicyclists face at unmarked crosswalks is drivers who don’t recognize such areas as crosswalks. As a result, some drivers may not yield the right-of-way when someone is crossing the street.

According to a 1972 study conducted in San Diego by Bruce Herms, more pedestrians suffer injuries at marked crosswalks than they do at unmarked crosswalks. The study concluded that marked crosswalks gave pedestrians a false sense of security and should only be installed where needed. In most cases, pedestrians are hit when they think drivers will stop to let them cross.

Herm's crosswalk theory influenced traffic engineers in some cities to avoid installing marked crosswalks in some places under the assumption that they could be harmful to pedestrians. The study was disputed by other researchers.

A study conducted by the Federal Highway Administration’s Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Research Program found no difference in the pedestrian crash rate when comparing marked and unmarked crosswalks on two-lane roads. The study found that pedestrian crashes were more likely to happen on multi-lane roadways with high traffic volume regardless of whether they had marked or unmarked crosswalks. In addition, crossing areas with raised medians generally had lower pedestrian crash rates.

What makes pedestrians so vulnerable to serious injuries?

Whether pedestrian accidents occur at marked or unmarked crosswalks, they are often caused by drivers who are speeding, driving distracted, or behaving recklessly. Pedestrians are more likely than other road users to suffer severe or life-threatening injuries. That’s because they aren’t protected by seat belts, airbags, helmets, or other protective gear.

In 2018, 102 pedestrians and 16 bicyclists were killed on Washington roadways. When pedestrians survive being hit by cars, it’s common for them to sustain:

  • Multiple broken bones
  • Severe head injuries
  • Severe neck, back, and spine injuries
  • Lacerations
  • Crushed limbs
  • Soft tissue injuries
  • Internal bleeding and damage to organs
  • Paralysis

Contact an experienced Vancouver attorney if you were hurt in a pedestrian accident

If you suffered injuries or lost a loved one in a pedestrian accident, speak to an experienced Vancouver attorney who will fight to uphold your rights. Attorney Colin Scott fights to hold negligent drivers accountable and maximize compensation for his clients. Whether it’s through a settlement or court verdict, he can help you demand every dollar you’re entitled to in damages. This can include medical costs, lost wages, property damage, and non-economic damages such as pain and suffering.

Attorney Scott serves clients in the greater Vancouver area and throughout Southwest Washington. To schedule your free legal consultation, contact The Scott Law Firm, PLLC online or call us at (360) 718-3640.

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