Everyone in Houston knows that cars rule the roads when it comes to transportation; however, pedestrians and cyclists still have rights that must be acknowledged when driving. According to Texas law, drivers must yield the right of way to pedestrians who are at marked, or unmarked, crosswalks when the pedestrian is in the driver’s half of the roadway or crossing from the opposite side. Sadly, most drivers in Houston do not abide by this law and some even display aggressive behavior towards pedestrians. Stopping for a pedestrian at a crosswalk should be a no-brainer; however, the statistics show that crosswalks designed with pedestrian safety in mind are actually one of the most dangerous places for a pedestrian to cross the street and usually result in crosswalk accidents.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), between 2014 and 2018, 23% of all Houston fatal car crashes involved a pedestrian. That average increased to 27% when looking at all of Harris County in that same timeframe. During those five years, 31% of all non-fatal motor vehicle accidents also involved a pedestrian. These statistics are almost double the national averages for that same specific time period. Why do so many Houstonians ignore the law and fail to yield the right of way to pedestrians at crosswalks?
Drivers Are Not Aware of Pedestrians
While driving in Houston, it is very common to see drivers holding their cell phones, a hamburger, or a latte while driving. Many drivers do not keep their eyes on the road ahead and instead focus on distractions in their vehicles. When approaching an intersection, with or without a marked crosswalk, those distracted drivers are not looking for pedestrians. Their driving pattern does not change because they are not taking in new information from the surrounding scene. This is why distracted drivers cause so many accidents involving pedestrians. Drivers may also not be aware of the requirement to yield the right of way to a pedestrian when at an intersection. Crosswalks, whether marked or unmarked, require a car to stop and allow any pedestrians to cross safely. Even if Houston is not the most walkable city, these laws are in place to protect those who walk instead of drive or ride.
The Laws Are Not Enforced
There are many laws that protect pedestrian rights, however, these laws are very difficult to enforce. To be effective, pedestrian laws should be enforced consistently to demonstrate how important the laws are and the seriousness of breaking those laws. This is difficult to do, though, as police officers would have to be positioned at crosswalks to be able to pull over any vehicles that do not stop for a pedestrian to cross. This is not an efficient use of city and state resources, unfortunately, and so will you rarely see a police officer sitting at a crosswalk giving out citations. The City of Houston does have a variety of ongoing projects that address public safety and are designed to increase the walkability of our city, including the Complete Streets and Walkable Places initiatives, and hopefully some of these projects will increase pedestrian safety at crosswalks.
Crosswalks Need Improvement
There have been a few new and improved crosswalks popping up across Houston that have stoplights associated with them. These new crosswalks are much more visible to drivers, showing a bright red light when a pedestrian has pressed the button to indicate they want to cross the street. These “high-intensity activated crosswalks” (HAWKs) have helped reduce the number of car crashes involving pedestrians on those particular streets, but what about the rest of the city? There are many intersections in Houston without marked crosswalks; and, even though the area to cross is still considered a pedestrian crosswalk, many cars speed through not knowing that an individual is waiting to cross they must yield. Many pedestrian-involved accidents also involve one car stopping on one side of the road and cars not stopping on the other side, leaving the pedestrian in the middle of the crosswalk waiting to safely cross. Driver awareness of pedestrian right of way must increase to keep everyone safe on our city streets.
Houston Pedestrian Accident Attorneys
Houston pedestrians have the right to walk to and from their destinations safely, without worrying about reckless drivers who ignore right-of-way laws. Unfortunately, not all drivers follow the rules, and countless individuals are seriously injured or killed each year by negligent drivers. If you or a loved one was seriously hurt in an auto accident where a driver failed to yield to a pedestrian or in any other Houston car accident, you may be entitled to financial compensation. Contact us today to get started on a free case consultation.