29 Dec, 2023

Who Is Liable for an Accident at an Unmarked Crosswalk?

Author Todd A. Strong
Injured pedestrian in a car accident. An unmarked crosswalk
Injured pedestrian in a car accident. An unmarked crosswalk

What Is Considered an Unmarked Crosswalk in Illinois?

Crosswalks, also known as pedestrian crossings, are designated areas for pedestrians to safely cross roads or streets. Some crosswalks are equipped with traffic signals to indicate when it's safe to cross, while others are simply marked by painted lines on the road.

An unmarked crosswalk is a crossing point that doesn't have any visible markings, signs, or signals, yet it's a legal place for pedestrians and bicycles to cross. These can be found at most intersections where there is no “No Crossing” sign, but the boundaries of sidewalks are connected at right angles.

Although unmarked crosswalks lack the visual cues of their marked counterparts, they provide the same legal protections. Typically, they are found at intersections where crossing would be a logical extension of a sidewalk, but where painted lines are not present.

Identification of Unmarked Crosswalks

Unmarked crosswalks can be difficult to notice since there are no painted lines, signs, or flashing lights to indicate their presence. Unlike marked crosswalks, unmarked crosswalks can only exist at an intersection, and an intersection does not have to be a four-way.

Legal Framework and Right-of-Way Regulations in Illinois

Traffic laws in Illinois determine who should yield in a given traffic scenario that involves both pedestrians and motor vehicle drivers. This is known as the right of way, which is the legal right to go first across a road before other road users. In personal injury cases that go to court, the judge and jury have to determine who was following the traffic signs, signals, and crosswalks leading up to the accident.

The Illinois Vehicle Code contains road rules covering pedestrians' Rights and Duties. In Illinois, pedestrians in a crosswalk have the right of way. Pedestrians who have not entered a crosswalk should yield to drivers until it's safe to enter. Therefore, pedestrians don't have an unlimited right to cross the road whenever they like. They should wait until it is safe.

Cars can cause more significant damage and have a general duty to exercise care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian. Pedestrians have rights at crosswalks, which can be at street intersections or elsewhere. At intersections, they can be marked or unmarked.

Away from intersections, crosswalks must be marked, indicating a pedestrian crossing by lines or other markings on the surface. At crosswalks with stoplights, both cars and pedestrians must obey their signal. In the absence of a specific pedestrian signal, pedestrians can only enter a crosswalk when they have the green light. At crosswalks with stop signs, cars must stop and yield to pedestrians as they would to other cars.

Where there is no stoplight or sign, crosswalks are usually in the middle of the block. In such a case, the law requires cars to yield only to pedestrians on the half of the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling and pedestrians approaching so closely from the opposite half of the roadway as to be in danger.

Then, the pedestrian has the right of way, and cars must stop—not just slow down. It's illegal for other cars to pass when a car stops to yield that right of way.

In middle-of-the-block marked crosswalks, cars must stop for pedestrians if they are in the crosswalk on or close to the car's half of the street. They don't have to stop for pedestrians approaching or waiting at the curb.

Right-of-way laws may indicate who is liable when a car hits a pedestrian who is jaywalking. Pedestrians don't have the right of way to enter the crosswalk whenever they want. According to the law, it is prohibited for pedestrians to unexpectedly leave a curb or any other safe location and walk or run into the path of a moving vehicle.

Factors Influencing Liability in Unmarked Crosswalk Accidents

Many situations may lead to a pedestrian getting knocked down. It is the responsibility of both drivers and pedestrians to take reasonable care towards one another. A driver must take all necessary precautions to avoid hitting a pedestrian, and a pedestrian must use common sense while crossing a street. This duty applies regardless of other circumstances.

Driver’s Duty of Care Towards Pedestrians

Drivers have a responsibility to exercise reasonable care while driving and avoid actions that may cause harm to other drivers and pedestrians. Negligence occurs when drivers fail to uphold this duty of care. Some leading causes of car accidents caused by negligence are distracted driving, speeding, disregarding traffic signs or signals, failing to yield the right of way to pedestrians at crosswalks, not signaling while turning, disregarding weather or traffic conditions, and driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Role of Visibility, Weather Conditions, and Road Design in Accident Liability

Pedestrian-vehicle accidents are more likely to happen when the physical environment encourages unsafe behavior from either the pedestrian or the driver, or fails to ensure a proper separation between pedestrians and vehicles. For example, the way a city is laid out, the pedestrian routes, and the crossing devices can lead pedestrians to cross roads in hazardous situations. Most physical environments that cause problems are due to some sort of design failure, which can include:

  • A shortage of crossing devices such as pedestrian signals, or crosswalks.
  • The absence of mid-block crossings, which are involved in as many as 55% of fatal pedestrian accidents
  • Roads that are too narrow
  • Poorly timed traffic signals
  • The lack of sidewalks

These problems can be further compounded by other factors, such as poor weather conditions, which can impact visibility for both drivers and pedestrians. Understanding the different elements that can contribute to pedestrian accidents can help victims in identifying who is responsible for the accident.

Inclement weather, by itself, does not cause accidents. Instead, it contributes by creating hazardous conditions, such as slippery roads, that can increase the time and distance it takes to stop. It may also cause debris on the roadway and water-filled potholes that can cause swerve risks or tire blowouts. Heavy rain and fog may reduce visibility on improperly maintained roads.

When the weather conditions are unfavorable, drivers must drive carefully and with skill. However, even with attentiveness, human error can still lead to car accidents. A driver may drive too fast for inclement weather conditions. The driver may also oversteer when skidding on pavement or avoiding road debris.

Regardless of environmental conditions, liability will be determined according to negligence, whether it be that of the driver’s, the pedestrian’s, or both. A court of law will consider how much each individual involved in a pedestrian accident followed their legally mandated duty of care. In other words, what would a reasonable person do in similar circumstances, such as when it is raining or snowing?

Your pedestrian accident lawyer can investigate thoroughly to uncover evidence of the other driver’s negligence. This evidence may include electronic records of cellphone use, roadside tire marks, and additional information from the police report.

Strategies for Preventing Accidents at Unmarked Crosswalks

Ensuring pedestrian safety requires safe driving and cautious walking. Preventing accidents at crosswalks involves taking certain measures.

Practical Measures for Drivers to Enhance Awareness and Safety

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration provides practical tips for drivers to prevent accidents involving pedestrians. These tips include having vigilance for pedestrians everywhere, at all times. In conditions where visibility is low, such as at night or during bad weather, drivers should use extra caution. They should slow down and be prepared to stop when turning or entering a crosswalk. Drivers should give pedestrians the right of way at crosswalks and stop well behind the crosswalk to give other vehicles a chance to see the pedestrians and stop as well. It is never safe to pass vehicles stopped at a crosswalk, as there may be pedestrians crossing that are not visible. Lastly, drivers should never drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol and should always follow the speed limit, especially in school zones and neighborhoods where children are present.

Collaboration for Improved Crosswalk Infrastructure

Communities often have ideas about how to improve crosswalk infrastructure for better safety. Local organizations can communicate these ideas to local authorities. Community boards or committees can help authorities identify opportunities for improvement, act as liaisons with planning and engineering officials, and advocate for change. By reviewing local plans and providing feedback before projects are developed, community organizations can ensure that new developments meet community standards and regulations.

About The Author

Photo of Todd A. Strong
Illinois workers’ compensation and personal injury lawyer Todd A. Strong is the founder of Strong Law Offices in Peoria, Illinois. Todd brings considerable legal knowledge, experience, and skill to the table to ensure injured victims throughout the state are treated with respect, dignity, and fairness.