Why sober drivers are difficult to convict in crosswalk cases

Crosswalk laws in California and other states are by and large set up to protect pedestrians. Drivers are expected to slow down and stop when a pedestrian appears likely to cross, and to generally exercise a bit of caution around intersections. However pedestrians have a responsibility too, and that’s to not jump out in front of traffic– even at crosswalks, when a car is traveling through pedestrians are expected to show some caution, respecting the danger of a fast-moving hunk of metal.

According to California law, the driver’s liability is mitigated by pedestrian’s "duty of using care for his or her safety. No pedestrian may suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle that is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard."

This creates an unsettling dynamic when it comes to fatal pedestrian accidents. Sometimes when a pedestrian is killed in a crosswalk, it takes place at night, and away from busy intersections with numerous witnesses. In such an instance, if the driver was sober and it can’t be proven that the driver was distracted at the time of the accident, a plaintiff’s verdict is not a foregone conclusion.

For example, take a recent case in Portland. Two women were killed in the second lane from the crosswalk by a driver going the speed limit at night. Though the driver passed by four signs warning of crosswalks and received a call near the time when the collision occurred, there was not enough hard evidence to suggest he was distracted, and he was dead sober. The civil trial jury did not 

give a verdict in favor of the families of the
deceased women.

Every case is different and every jury is
different. The one thing that cases like this remind all of us is the caution
and responsibility that goes with being a pedestrian and goes along with being
a driver.

Andy Gillin is a Senior Partner at GJEL Accident Attorneys. Read more about issues affecting pedestrians, cyclist and driver safety at GJEL’s street safety advocacy blog.
On why it is difficult to convict sober drivers in fatal pedestrian accidents.

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Andrew Ronald Gillin

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