Pedestrian’s Duty of Care

Ordinarily, pedestrians have a duty of ordinary care when crossing the street or encountering motor vehicle traffic on the public roadways. Generally, both drivers and pedestrians have a duty to use reasonable care to avoid accidents and pedestrian injuries.

Moreover, drivers are generally entitled to assume that the pedestrians that they encounter on the street will obey all traffic laws and will exercise their duty of ordinary care, including the duty to look carefully before crossing the street. Blind pedestrians, of course, do not have the ability to look carefully before crossing the street. Nevertheless, pedestrians who are blind are not exempt from a finding of negligence if they walk into the street without first exercising due care to ascertain traffic conditions. Blind pedestrians (and any other pedestrian who suffers from an impaired physical condition of some kind) are held to the degree of care that would reasonably be expected from a person of ordinary prudence having such a physical condition. Exercising this level of care may require more alert use of other faculties so that the impaired pedestrian is able to reach the level of ordinary care exercised by the ordinary pedestrian. In the case of the pedestrian who is blind and unable to look for on-coming traffic, he would need to make enhanced use of other senses such as hearing in order to ensure that he was safely crossing the street.

Similarly, courts have found that hearing-impaired pedestrians should use greater care than the ordinary pedestrian in crossing the street in order to compensate for their inability to hear on-coming traffic. This enhanced duty to look requires the hearing-impaired pedestrian to look constantly in order to ensure his own safety as he crosses the street. If the pedestrian meets this enhanced standard of care, and is nevertheless struck by traffic, he may not be found to have been negligent. In one case, a hearing-impaired pedestrian was found to have exercised the required level of care when she observed the defendant’s car parked on the curb with no one inside before walking past the car and then starting to cross the street. Despite the pedestrian’s careful observations, she was hit by the car when the defendant got into his car and backed over the pedestrian. Because she exercised greater care by observing the empty car and walking down the street, the hearing-impaired pedestrian was found not to be negligent.

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