Each day, countless Kentucky residents head out on foot for one reason or another. These individuals may do so as they travel to their jobs, school, the store, or simply for recreation. While many of them return home unscathed, some do not.
Many of the incidents that leave pedestrians injured can be blamed on motorists not having a clear understanding of how to keep walkers safe.
There are pedestrian right-of-way laws that aim to protect those people who walk from getting hurt. Not all motorists (and even some pedestrians) know about their obligations on this end—knowledge that could save lives. Let’s delve a bit deeper into the dangers that walkers face and pedestrian right-of-way laws in Kentucky that exist to protect them.
How Dangerous Is Being a Pedestrian?
The latest data published by the nonprofit Smart Growth America shows that a staggering 53,435 pedestrians were struck and killed by motorists here in the U.S. between 2016 and 2019. There were an estimated 6,237 pedestrians deaths in 2019.
There was a 45% increase in pedestrian deaths between 2010 and 2019 over the previous decade. The last four recorded years have reportedly been the deadliest among the last 30 years.
Kentucky ranks 20th on the organization’s report of the most dangerous states for pedestrians.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data shows that pedestrians are 1.5 times more likely than motorists to die while walking than motorists are when behind the wheel of their cars.
These staggering statistics led researchers to deep dive into factors that may contribute to a pedestrian dying while walking.
Are Some Pedestrians More Vulnerable to Being Struck Than Others?
An analysis of SGA and CDC statistics reveals that individuals belonging to the following groups are most vulnerable to losing their lives as pedestrians:
- People of color: The pedestrian death rates among African Americans and Native Americans were 82% and 221% higher than for non-Hispanic, White Americans between 2010 and 2019.
- Senior citizens: CDC data shows that at least 10% of pedestrians struck by vehicles are individuals over 65. SGA data shows that the pedestrian fatality rate of older Americans is disproportionately higher than it is for younger populations. That rate is nearly 2.5 fatalities per 100,000 individuals for seniors aged 50-64, around 1.75 for those 65-74, and over 2.5 for those 75 or over. Researchers believe that decreased mobility and diminished visual and hearing acuity may result in an uptick in this population’s pedestrian fatality rate.
- Visitors to low-income communities: SGA’s researchers determined that the lower the median household income in an area, the more likely its pedestrians were to get struck while out walking. They found that pedestrians were two or three times as likely to end up being struck in lower-income communities than respective middle and upper-class ones. Researchers suspect that poor street design may increase residents’ fatality risks, including a lack of marked crosswalks or sidewalks and higher speed limits in lower-income areas.
- Children: CDC’s most recent data shows that an estimated 20% of kids under age 15 killed in any traffic accident in 2017 were pedestrians.
Reasons Why Pedestrians Get Hit
We’ve covered some of the reasons why pedestrians end up getting hit by motorists, including a lack of sidewalks or marked crosswalks, too high of speed limits, diminished visual or hearing abilities, and decreased responsiveness. Some additional reasons they occur include:
Some additional reasons the CDC shows that motorists strike pedestrians include:
- Because they jaywalk (cross the road at unauthorized spots)
- Take a walk while under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Fail to make themselves visible (by wearing reflective clothing or carrying a flashlight)
- Become distracted by radios or phones
While pedestrians could greatly decrease their chances of being struck by modifying their actions, motorists must do their part, too. Both pedestrians and motorists can benefit from learning about or refreshing their knowledge of Kentucky right-of-way laws.
What Are Kentucky’s Pedestrian Right-of-Way Laws?
Kentucky Revised Statute 189.570 is the state’s right-of-way law. It requires motorists to yield to pedestrians’ right-of-way when a pedestrian is walking:
- Within a marked crosswalk
- Through an intersection, even when no light is present
- On a sidewalk
This same law also describes circumstances in which pedestrians must yield to motorists’ right-of-way instead. These include when:
- Crossing the roadway at any point other than at an intersection or within a marked crosswalk
- There is a designated overhead pedestrian crossing or tunnel present
That same statute spells out how pedestrians should:
- Conduct themselves within designated crosswalks, including keeping to the right within them
- Avoid walking upon an adjacent roadway when there’s a sidewalk present
- Walk upon the roadway’s edge when a highway doesn’t have a sidewalk or a shoulder
- Travel along the lefthand side of the roadway when no shoulder or sidewalk is present
- Not use any other surface for travel along an interstate other than a sidewalk if they’re intoxicated
- Not cross an intersection diagonally traffic control devices designate it as appropriate, or they’re otherwise authorized to do so
Kentucky statutes like KRS 198.570 address how pedestrians shouldn’t go around, over, or under or pass through a railroad crossing. This same section of the law also explains how it’s unlawful for pedestrians to stand near the roadway to guard a car. This statute also prohibits individuals from standing in a roadway in various situations.
State statute KRS 189.575 clarifies how motorists must yield to the right-of-way of blind pedestrians when there are clear indicators of their visual impairment, such as an assistance dog or white cane.
What Options Do You Have If a Pedestrian Accident Left You Injured?
Some pedestrians are lucky enough to walk away from an accident whereby a motorist strikes them without any injuries. Other incidents are fatal. While these polar opposite outcomes are possible, these events most commonly leave pedestrians with catastrophic injuries that require surgeries and long recovery times. Debilitating injuries that leave victims with chronic pain or impairments for the rest of their lives aren’t unheard of either.
Know that Kentucky law allows pedestrians to recover compensation when a motorist’s failure to abide by state right-of-way laws leaves them hurt. Our Golden Law Office attorneys can review your case and advise you whether you might be entitled to compensation for your injuries and other accident-related costs.