What Drivers in Maine Should Know to Keep Pedestrians Safe in 2016

An alarming statistic surfaced at the end of the year: 2015 was the deadliest year for pedestrians in Maine since 1997.

According to an article published in the Portland Press Herald, 18 pedestrians died between Jan. 1, 2015, and Dec. 23. The report cited statistics from the Maine Department of Transportation and Maine Bureau of Public Safety. While many people might think children are usually victims in such accidents, it turns out all pedestrians who lost their lives in Maine were adults. This statistic is unusual when considering national numbers. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that 21 percent of all deadly pedestrian accidents nationwide involved children 14 and younger.

And while a spokesman for the Maine Department of Transportation stated that pedestrians often are at fault, our personal injury attorneys at the Law Offices of Joe Bornstein know that drivers also share responsibility in many cases. We know that factors such as talking or texting on a phone while behind the wheel or driving after using drugs or alcohol can have grave consequences. Other leading causes of pedestrian accidents include rolling through stop signs, not paying attention and speeding or reckless driving through crosswalks.

But crosswalks are actually not the most dangerous spots for pedestrians. Across the United States and in Maine, over two-thirds of all deadly pedestrian accidents happened away from intersections and after the sun has gone down, according to the Press Herald report.

It's important for people on foot or riding bicycles to be aware of their surroundings and be extremely cautious around motor vehicles. To reduce your risk of being hit by a car, you should wear bright clothing at night, walk in a crosswalk or on a sidewalk when possible and avoid distractions.

How Drivers Can Avoid Causing Pedestrian Accidents

Motorists also have a responsibility to avoid pedestrian accidents:

  • Avoid looking at your phone at all times when driving. If you absolutely have to use the phone, pull over to a safe location.
  • Drive slowly and carefully when backing out of a driveway and when you're in a parking lot.
  • Use caution when driving around school zones or school buses.
  • Don't speed and operate your vehicle at a speed that is safe for the conditions. If it's raining or snowing, you may have to drive well below the speed limit.
  • Use your signals and check your mirrors when changing lanes.
  • Make a complete stop at a stop sign.

In Maine, 29-A M.R.S.A. §2056 spells out the responsibilities of drivers and pedestrians. The Statute establishes that if there is a sidewalk next to a road, the pedestrian must use the sidewalk and not walk on the road. If there is no sidewalk, the pedestrian can walk on the left side, facing approaching traffic or on the shoulder of the road.

A driver who is passing a pedestrian must leave at least 3 feet of distance between the vehicle and the person, according to the Statute. The driver may pass a pedestrian in a no-passing zone when it is safe to do so.

Drivers must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians using crosswalks and sidewalks, according to the Statute. A pedestrian must yield the right-of-way to a vehicle when crossing a road (unless the pedestrian is in a marked crosswalk).

What Rights Do Pedestrians Have in Maine?

The Statute also states:

  • Pedestrians are prohibited from crossing between adjacent intersections that have traffic signals, except in a marked crosswalk.
  • Pedestrians are prohibited from crossing diagonally through an intersection, unless authorized by official traffic-control devices.
  • Pedestrians are prohibited from darting onto a road and into the path of a vehicle that has no time to stop safely.

The Statute lists rules for motorists:

  • Drivers may not overtake and pass a vehicle that is stopped for a pedestrian at an intersection or marked crosswalk.
  • Drivers must exercise due care to avoid striking a pedestrian.
  • Drivers must give warning by sounding the horn when necessary.
  • Drivers must exercise proper caution around a child or an obviously confused, incapacitated or intoxicated person.

While pedestrians are not always blameless in accidents, they often suffer serious injuries that turn their lives upside down regardless of who was at fault. Drivers almost always walk away from such accidents unscathed.

Drivers who violate Maine's laws and cause pedestrian accidents must be held accountable. Pedestrians, including bicyclists, who are struck by heavy cars and trucks should not hesitate to arrange a consultation with an experienced Maine personal injury lawyer.

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