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Do Pedestrians Always Have the Right of Way?


A Surprising Fact About Pedestrian Laws in South Carolina

Do Pedestrians Have the Right of Way?

Many people think of it as common knowledge: “Pedestrians always have the right of way.” But, surprisingly, this isn’t true. In South Carolina, the law details many situations in which pedestrians are legally required to yield to oncoming traffic.

If you’ve ever shared the road with motorists while walking—and, chances are, you have—you already know that drivers are not always paying attention. As a pedestrian, it’s important that you are aware of the laws intended to keep you safe. Here, we’ve outlined some South Carolina pedestrian laws you should know, including when you do and do not have the right of way.

Pedestrian Responsibilities in South Carolina

Because a person on foot is simply no match for a large, heavy motor vehicle, drivers should always do everything they can to avoid hitting pedestrians. However, as a pedestrian, you also have certain responsibilities. It is up to you to ensure your own safety, something you can do by always following all applicable pedestrian laws and remaining aware of your surroundings.

When possible, pedestrians should walk:

  • Anywhere a sidewalk is present and safe to use. Pedestrians should walk on the sidewalk and may not walk along the adjacent roadway. If there is no sidewalk available, pedestrians should walk on the left side of the road (facing traffic) and as far over to the shoulder/outside of the road as possible
  • On the curb/place of safety. Pedestrians are not permitted to suddenly leave a curb/place of safety and step out into the roadway when oncoming vehicles are approaching too quickly/closely to yield
  • On the right side of marked crosswalks to cross the street whenever possible and/or practical.
  • In pedestrian tunnels or overhead crossings when available and must yield to vehicles when crossing a roadway where such designated crossings are present.

Here are some South Carolina pedestrian laws you should know:

  • Pedestrians must follow all traffic control devices (red lights, stop signs, “do not walk” signals, etc.) unless otherwise instructed by a law enforcement official
  • Any time a pedestrian crosses a roadway outside of a marked or unmarked crosswalk, they must yield the right of way to vehicles
  • Pedestrians are prohibited from crossing a roadway between adjacent intersections that contain traffic control devices unless there is a marked crosswalk
  • Pedestrians are not permitted to cross an intersection diagonally unless traffic control devices explicitly permit them to do so

Additionally, you are not allowed to walk or stand along the main portion of a freeway or highway except in the event of an emergency. Soliciting a ride (hitchhiking), employment, business, or contributions from anyone in a vehicle while on the highway is also outlawed in South Carolina.

Motorist Responsibilities to Pedestrians

Just as pedestrians have a responsibility to follow the law and keep themselves safe, motor vehicle drivers are also required to take certain measures to avoid catastrophic accidents with people on foot.

Generally speaking, anyone who operates a vehicle of any kind in the state of South Carolina should always remain vigilant and aware of their surroundings. Motorists should do everything possible to avoid hitting pedestrians, including yielding the right of way or stopping whenever possible.

Specifically, motorists are required by law to:

  • Yield to any pedestrian crossing a roadway in a marked or unmarked crosswalk
  • Yield to pedestrians crossing in a crosswalk when the pedestrian is on the same side of the road as the motorist or when they are approaching closely enough so as to be in danger
  • Stop for any pedestrian attempting to cross a roadway with the assistance of a white/red-tipped cane or guide dog and utilize proper precautions when moving past such individuals
  • Exercise “due care,” meaning they should utilize all available precautions to avoid hitting pedestrians, including honking or giving audible signals when possible

Additionally, motorists are required by law to use proper precaution when driving near or around children or any individual who appears confused, disoriented, or intoxicated. Motorists are also prohibited from driving through or within safety zones in South Carolina at any time.

Why Right of Way Matters

Knowing when you do and do not have the right of way matters for several reasons. First and foremost, it can help keep you safe. Knowing when to yield to oncoming traffic can help you avoid catastrophic and potentially deadly collisions.

Additionally, the issue of right of way can be a critical component of a personal injury claim. By proving that you had the right of way and that the vehicle that hit you should have stopped, you can establish that the driver of the vehicle was being negligent. Alternatively, if you did not have the right of way when you were hit, the driver of the vehicle may use this to argue that you were to blame for the accident.

Even if you were partially at fault, this does not prevent you from being able to recover compensation. Under South Carolina’s modified comparative negligence rule, you are still able to file a personal injury claim and seek compensation for your damages as long as you were less than 51% at fault. However, your total recovery will be reduced by your at-fault percentage. For example, if you were 30% to blame, you can only recover up to 70% of the total amount. And, if you were more than 50% at fault for the accident, you will not be able to recover any compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, pain, and suffering, or other economic or non-economic damages.

How Our Attorneys Can Help

If you were injured in a pedestrian accident, chances are, you’re dealing with significant repercussions. At Pierce, Sloan, Kennedy & Early LLC, we can handle the details of your case so that you can focus on your physical recovery. Our Charleston pedestrian accident attorneys can provide the answers you need to get started during a free, no-obligation consultation. We offer contingency fees, meaning you do not owe us anything unless/until we recover compensation for you. There is no risk in speaking to a member of our team about your potential legal options.

Give us a call today at (843) 968-0886 or submit an online contact form.