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Washington State Considers 'Free to Walk' Bill to Improve Pedestrian Safety

A close-up of a person's feet walking on a sidewalk.

Washington State is considering adopting a proposed law aimed at protecting people on foot and preventing pedestrian accidents in the future, according to a recent KIMA News story about Washington's proposed "Free To Walk" bill.

"We as drivers have a responsibility to make sure we're driving as safely as possible and making sure that we are taking into account the people that are more vulnerable which are people that are walking," said Rebecca Saldana, a Washington state senator and one of the sponsors of the proposed bill, per KIMA News.

What is the 'Free To Walk' bill in Washington State?

Washington Senate Bill (SB) 5383, the "Free To Walk" bill, would allow pedestrians to legally cross a street at any point with a posted speed limit of 45 mph or less. Central to this legislation is the stipulation that pedestrians must not obstruct the flow of traffic while crossing.

Currently, pedestrians crossing a street in Washington State can be subject to jaywalking laws since jaywalking remains illegal. Jaywalking is a civil infraction in Washington State, which means that people are cited and fined for jaywalking by police, not arrested.

What would change if the 'Free To Walk' bill becomes law?

Yakima traffic sergeant Scott Grant noted in an interview with KIMA News that police rarely give jaywalking tickets. "It still doesn't relieve the pedestrian from having to yield to vehicle traffic outside of the crosswalk," Grant said. "So, it's really not going to make much of a difference."

However, Saldana said it's important that the bill becomes law because "the history of jaywalking and the history of it is alarming." In particular, police in Washington State historically ticket black pedestrians for jaywalking 2.7 times more often than other pedestrians, according to a recent study conducted by Transportation Choices Coalition. In addition, the same study found that nearly half of pedestrians ticketed by police for jaywalking are homeless.

How common are pedestrian accidents in Washington State?

In recent years, pedestrian fatalities have surged to unprecedented levels. In 2021, Washington State witnessed an unfortunate milestone with 142 pedestrian deaths, marking a decade-high, as per data compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

While 2022 saw a slight improvement with 130 pedestrian fatalities, the numbers remain alarmingly high compared to previous years. Except for 2021, 2022 recorded the second-highest pedestrian death toll in Washington State since at least 2012, based on NHTSA data.

If you were hit by a car, you need to know your legal options

Accidents involving pedestrians often result in severe injuries and complex insurance claims. That's because the insurance company for the at-fault driver has a financial incentive to purposefully delay, dispute, or outright deny your injury claim.

Without an experienced pedestrian accident lawyer on your side looking out for your best interests, you could end up losing out on the financial compensation you deserve for your medical bills, lost wages, and other accident-related expenses.

At the Scott Law Firm, PLLC, we know how to navigate complex claims and deal with insurance companies. We can handle all the red tape while you focus on what matters most – your recovery.

Get a law firm with a passion for justice. Contact us and schedule a free consultation. Our office is located in Vancouver, WA and we proudly represent clients throughout Southwest Washington.

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