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Fatal I-75 Atlanta Pedestrian Tragedy

pedestrians-300x199Georgia pedestrian deaths have increased this past year. Although a recent pedestrian accident and injury was somewhat different in the way it occurred, every fatality is shocking and sad. The tragedy that unfolded early morning last week on I-75 stunned the Atlanta community. A woman who ran into highway traffic was fatally injured after several vehicles struck her. The closing of I-75 caused significant delays. Traffic coming in from the airport and elsewhere was impacted. Several drivers involved in this situation or nearby as witnesses, stopped after realizing what was happening. Other drivers tried to maneuver around the tragedy and additional car crashes began to occur.

A pedestrian on a major highway is a fairly rare situation. But, have you ever had the experience of entering a crosswalk and having a vehicle whiz by nearly hitting you or your family? Many of us have had this experience. The law in Georgia is quite clear. If a pedestrian has entered the crosswalk, there are specific circumstances in which he or she has the right of way. There are several laws that apply in pedestrian situations.

Georgia pedestrian laws which were amended several decades ago require drivers to “stop and stay stopped” for pedestrians under specific circumstances. Under the Official Code of Georgia Annotated section 40-6-91 drivers must stop for pedestrians who are within half the roadway or within one lane of their vehicle. It is not enough to slow down, the vehicle must stop. Even if other drivers are honking at you or going around your vehicle, you must stop. Drivers going around your vehicle are not permitted to do this. It is very very dangerous for those in the road or crosswalk. Pedestrians cannot simply leave a curb when a vehicle clearly cannot stop in time to allow them to cross. Pedestrians need to avoid these situations. Under the Official Code of Georgia Annotated section 40-6-92, even if a pedestrian is not in a cross walk, but has entered the road at an intersection, drivers must yield the right of way.

Since about 2010, a shocking increase in pedestrian deaths has taken hold across the country and there are no signs of this slowing down at all. There are several reasons for this, including distracted driving and aggressive driving. Nationally, pedestrian fatalities are up over 45 percent in the past decade. Georgia is not immune to the national trend. Our statistics reveal that in the past decade, pedestrian fatalities have increased by about 50 percent from about 130 in 2011 to 260 in 2017.

At this point, experts say this is no longer a “blip,” but is rather a trend. It is widely accepted that two major changes in recent years may well have altered both the way people drive and the way they walk. One is smart phone use which has increased dramatically over the past ten years. We have all seen distracted drivers and walkers using their phones and not paying attention to their surroundings. In one case this is generally not lawful, in the other it is unwise and can be dangerous. The other factor for both drivers and walkers may be the recreational use of marijuana in many locations. The links between smart phone use or drug use have not been confirmed, but could be a factor say the experts.

Scholle Law suggests that we all pay attention and be ready for the unexpected as we drive or walk. Getting to your destination safely includes walking across the street. However, drivers must be responsible for their actions around pedestrian activities. If you or a loved one has been harmed by a vehicle while crossing a roadway or street, please contact us for legal support and guidance at no charge to you for our evaluation. In most cases, we do not get paid until you do.