Pedestrian Killing near Highway Shows Need for Increased Awareness about Pedestrian-Automobile Safety Laws

The roadways are a dangerous place for any individual, regardless if they are driving or merely a pedestrian. Because of environmental dangers as well as a wide variety of mechanical and human errors that can occur as cars drive across this country, it is important to understand the complexities of the law. Accidents involving pedestrians and cars happen all too often and the law does not entirely back the pedestrian in all incidences.

According to the St. Mary and Franklin Banner-Tribune, a pedestrian was struck and killed by an automobile on Saturday April 10th while walking along the U.S. 90 Service Road in western St. Mary Parish. The pedestrian was Danny Gautreaux, 52, of Patterson. Mr. Gautreaux was walking eastward on the westbound lanes of the U.S. 90 at Penn Road around 9 p.m. when he was struck by a 68 year-old woman driving a 2001 Ford Taurus. Louisiana State Police spokesperson Stephen Hammons took the occasion to remind pedestrians that Louisiana state law demands that they walk on sidewalks where sidewalks are provided. When there is no sidewalk, pedestrians are expected to walk on the shoulder of the road against the flow of traffic. Gautreaux was walking in the traffic lane when he was struck. He was pronounced dead at the scene by the St. Mary Parish Coroner. A press release reveals that Gautreaux was believed to be walking from his vehicle which had run out of gas near the site of the crash.

Pedestrians should note that they do not always have the right of way. Under Louisiana law (R.S. 32:211) pedestrians have the right of way in crosswalks whether traffic-control signals are in operation or in place or not. Vehicles are expected to slow down or stop to yield to a pedestrian within a crosswalk but the law also provides that it is unlawful for pedestrians to “walk along and upon an adjacent roadway” where sidewalks are available (R.S.32:215). Where there are no sidewalks, pedestrians walking along a highway are expected to walk only on the left side of the roadway or its shoulder facing approaching traffic. Even if a vehicle happens to break down or run out of gas, pedestrians should not engage in soliciting rides or help by standing in the roadway. (See R.S. 32:216).
Automoble drivers are also responsible for exercising proper due care when coming in contact with pedestrians. Under R.S. 32:213, drivers should give warning by sounding the horn whenever necessary to alert a pedestrian and drivers should exercise extra precaution if a child or an obviously confused person is observed on the roadway.

The expectations of drivers are elevated in the event the pedestrian is in any way handicapped. Blind pedestrians, in particular, are a special exception to the standard right of way rules. If a driver encounters a visually impaired pedestrian using a white cane or a guide dog, the blind person has the right of way at all times (R.S. 32:217). Blind pedestrians might be startled by horns or shouts so these are not proper ways to alert the blind person. When driving electric or hybrid vehicles, extra caution should be exercised when encountering a blind pedestrian because the near silence of these automobiles may prevent the blind person from realizing that the vehicle is present.

Whether walking along the road or driving your car while coming up on a pedestrian, it is important to understand the legal responsibilities that all of us face while on the road. Not merely relevant to any possible litigation, properly signaling and careful conduct can prevent a life-changing event from taking place that no one would ever want to be involved in. If you or someone you know has been involved in an accident involving a car striking a pedestrian, it is important to get legal counsel immediately because of the wide variety of implications and problems that can develop on either side of the matter.