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Learn about pedestrian rights and responsibilities in the Prairie State
Illinois is known as the “Prairie State” because it has miles and miles of tallgrass prairies. Though prairies don’t pose much of a threat to pedestrians, Illinois is also home to some of the busiest cities in the country, including Chicago, Aurora, Springfield, and Bloomington, where pedestrians face considerably more danger.
If the wind ever stops blowing and the snow ever stops falling long enough in Illinois for you to put on your walking shoes, there are some things you should keep in mind.
Pedestrian injury statistics
Pedestrian deaths have increased by 35% in the United States from 2008-2017, even though the number of deaths caused by other types of traffic accidents has decreased. Population growth, increased interest in walking, larger vehicles, and smartphone use are all thought to contribute to the rise in pedestrian deaths.
Like the rest of the U.S., pedestrian deaths have increased in Illinois over the years. According to the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), there were 4,940 crashes involving pedestrians in 2017 (the most recent year for which data is available) and 148 pedestrian deaths. Of the 148 pedestrians killed, 128 were killed on urban roads and 20 were killed on rural roads. Cook County regularly leads the state in pedestrian fatalities.
Illinois pedestrian laws
If you’re crossing an intersection as a pedestrian, does an approaching driver have a legal obligation to stop or do you have an obligation to wait for the driver to pass?
Illinois’ right-of-way laws determine who has the right to proceed first. In order to stay safe—and to avoid traffic citations—it’s important to understand who has the right-of-way in certain situations.
In Illinois, a driver must come to a complete stop and yield:
- When a pedestrian is in a marked crosswalk
- On school days when children are close to a school-zone crosswalk
A driver must yield to a pedestrian:
- When a pedestrian is in an unmarked crosswalk on the driver’s side of the road and there are no traffic control signals
- When making a turn at an intersection
- When making a lawful turn on a red light after coming to a complete stop
- After coming to a complete stop at a stop sign or flashing red signal at an intersection
- When a pedestrian enters a crosswalk before the traffic light changes
- When a pedestrian is walking with a green light or a walk signal
- When a pedestrian is leaving o entering a street or highway from an alley, building, private road, or driveway
- When a pedestrian is entering an intersection with a flashing yellow arrow
Pedestrians, on the other hand, have legal obligations in Illinois as well. For example:
- Pedestrians must obey traffic signals, observe walk lights, and use crosswalks.
- Pedestrians may not suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a moving vehicle in a way that creates an immediate hazard.
- When crossing a road at any place other than a marked or unmarked crosswalk, pedestrians must give the right-of-way to drivers.
- Pedestrians must not walk on a road unless there is no sidewalk or shoulder next to it. Under these conditions, pedestrians should walk facing oncoming traffic as far from the outside edge of the road as possible.
- Pedestrians must not walk on a highway when under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.
- Pedestrians must always obey railroad and bridge gates and other barriers.
- Hitchhiking is illegal in Illinois.
- Pedestrians ages 18 or older may skateboard on public roads where the posted speed limit is 45 mph or less from sunrise to sunset, as long as vehicle traffic is not impeded.
Determining fault in a pedestrian accident
All drivers have a legal duty to drive with reasonable care and to obey all traffic laws. If a driver violates that duty and causes an accident, the driver can be sued for negligence.
Pedestrians also have a duty to exercise reasonable care while navigating the roads in Illinois. Just like a driver, if a pedestrian violates their duty of care (for example, by running out into the middle of the road), then the pedestrian can be sued for negligence.
In some cases, the driver and the pedestrian might both be at fault for an accident.
What happens then?
Illinois follows the modified comparative fault theory. Under this theory, the amount of damages a plaintiff can recover is reduced by a percentage that reflects the plaintiff’s degree of fault. However, if a plaintiff is determined to have been 51% or more at fault for the accident, then they will not be able to obtain any compensation from the defendant.
Let’s look at an example:
Who’s liable in this situation?
Jennifer has a legal duty to exercise reasonable care while navigating the roads. Driving while texting (which is illegal in Illinois) is a violation of that duty.
Jennifer’s lawyers will, however, make the argument that Alex is partially at fault. After all, pedestrians must give the right-of-way to drivers when crossing a road at any place other than a marked or unmarked crosswalk (or when entering a street from an alley, building, private road, or driveway).
If the court determines that Jennifer is 60% at fault for the accident and Alex is 40% at fault, Alex will only be able to recover 60% of his damages due to Illinois’ modified pure comparative fault laws. If the court determines that Jennifer is 49% at fault and Alex is 51% at fault, Alex won’t be able to recover any damages.
Damages available in a pedestrian accident
With no airbags, seatbelts, or steel frame to lessen the impact, pedestrians can be seriously injured or even killed when struck by a motor vehicle. Some common pedestrian injuries include:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Soft tissue injuries
- Broken bones
Pedestrians in Illinois can be compensated for the economic damages (medical expenses and lost wages) caused by the accident, as well as the non-economic damages (pain and suffering).
In addition, a pedestrian might be able to recover punitive damages if the driver’s actions were intentional or particularly outrageous.
Drivers can also recover economic damages, non-economic damages, and punitive damages if they crashed trying to avoid a pedestrian. In most cases, given the nature of pedestrian-motor vehicle collisions, the driver will recover property damage.
What to do after a pedestrian accident in Illinois
The most important step to take after an accident is to obtain the medical care you need. Even if you don’t think you’ve been harmed, it’s important to see a doctor and explain what happened. Symptoms of some injuries, including life-threatening internal injuries, might not appear until days or even weeks later.
If you’ve been in a pedestrian accident and you’re not seriously hurt, try to gather (or have a friend or family member gather) the following information:
- The driver’s name, contact information, license number, insurance information, and the car’s license plate number
- The contact information of any witnesses
- A police report
If possible, take photographs of the scene, including any damages.
How insurance companies handle pedestrian accidents
The driver (in most cases) will report the collision to their insurance company. Pedestrians, if injured, will make a claim against the driver’s insurance company. Fortunately, Illinois requires drivers to carry liability insurance.
If you don’t want to deal with the insurance company and want to ensure you get the most compensation possible, consider using the Enjuris Lawyer Directory to contact a personal injury attorney in your area.
Tips for staying safe as a pedestrian
The National Safety Council, a nonprofit organization with the goal of eliminating preventable deaths on the road through leadership, research, education, and advocacy, has some tips for staying safe as a pedestrian:
- You should walk on the sidewalk when possible. If no sidewalk is available, you should walk facing traffic.
- You should follow the rules of the road
- You should cross streets at crosswalks. If no crosswalk is available, you should move to a place where you can see oncoming traffic.
- Look both ways and make eye contact with drivers of oncoming vehicles to make sure they see you.
- Avoid using smartphones or wearing earbuds when walking.
- Avoid alcohol and drug impairment when walking.
- Wear bright and reflective clothing at night.
- Watch for cars entering or exiting driveways or backing up in parking lots.
- Children younger than 10 should always cross the street with an adult.
See our guide Choosing a personal injury attorney.