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A few years ago, the National Safety Council ran a television ad showing a deadly car crash, with the superimposed message, “he was right – dead right.” I don’t know if the ad stopped any accidents, but its message was undeniably true – when on the roads, drivers have to put safety over pride. Sometimes, the best course is to give the right of way to the car, that by rights, shouldn’t have it. That advice is doubly true for pedestrians. In any collision with a car, the pedestrian loses.

The Federal Highway Administration reported that in 2005, the last year for which complete data is available, there were 4,881 pedestrian fatalities, from pedestrians struck by motor vehicles. Fellow Massachusetts lawyer, Christopher Early, writes a blog about pedestrian accidents in the city of Boston. In every location, impatience, speed, road rage, and plain old carelessness, account for the carnage. Even though the laws are generous to pedestrians, no one walking amongst cars and trucks can rely on their legal rights for safety. For example, in Massachusetts, chapter 89, §11 of the General Laws, provides that the driver of a motor vehicle may not proceed when a pedestrian is in the crosswalk ahead of him, even if the driver has a green light. I would not advise any pedestrian to presume that every driver will comply with that salutory law. A pedestrian must be wary even when a driver extends a courtesy on the roads. There have been many tragic accidents, some involving children, when an impatient driver behind a car that has stopped to let a pedestrian pass, and not knowing why the car has stopped, swerves around the good samaritan, striking the pedestrian.

Laws already in place to protect pedestrians, are probably sufficient, though I would not be surprised to hear a different point of view. What is needed on the driver side to reduce pedestrian injuries, more than anything else, including education as to the laws, is courtesy and patience. What is needed from pedestrians, is constant vigilance.

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