The dangers of crossing the street in the District

It is a story too often in the news-a pedestrian was hit and killed while trying to cross New York Avenue NE. As reported by, according to the police report the pedestrian was hit as he was crossing the street and was some 150 feet away from a crosswalk. This tragic accident follows another only days before when a driver attempting a right turn hit a 94-year-old woman who was crossing Harvard Avenue in the crosswalk. She too was killed.

According to a recent report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, of the fatalities in the District in 2101, over half were pedestrians. The national average for such fatalities in 13 percent. While this may not be such a startling static considering the urbanization of the area, it does represent a dramatic increase form 2002 when the number was just 18 percent and 2008 when the number rose to 38 percent. Perhaps surprisingly, the District Department of Transportation has collected data from all pedestrian crashes from 2004 to 2010 and concluded that about half of the crashes occurred when the pedestrian was in the crosswalk-causing one police official to remark that a crosswalk is the most dangerous place for a pedestrian to be. But what are the rules of the road for pedestrians? Is crossing the street in the middle of the block illegal?

District law provides that it is illegal to cross a street in the middle of a block when the adjacent intersections are controlled by traffic signals, but it is not illegal when the adjacent intersections are uncontrolled. Still, every person who crosses the street without a marked crosswalk must yield to traffic; no pedestrian may leave the sidewalk curb and walk or turn into a vehicle that is so near that makes it impossible for the driver to safely yield the right of way. When the signal says "Don't Walk," it means do not step off the curb.

As for drivers, they must stop and yield the right of way to any pedestrian who has begun walking on a "walk" signal and must stop and yield to any pedestrian who is crossing at an intersection within a marked or unmarked crosswalk. Any driver making a right turn at a red light must come to a full stop and must yield to any pedestrian. In every event, a driver must control his or her speed so as to avoid striking a pedestrian who is lawfully crossing the street.

Frequently, a pedestrian who is struck crossing a street is blameless or is only at fault for doing something sudden. Collisions often occur when a driver is attempting a turn. Anyone who has been injured as a pedestrian should immediately consult with an experience personal injury attorney who is familiar with District rules of the road.