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Marked Crosswalks More Dangerous Than Simply Crossing the Street?

A 17-year-old girl was crossing the street at a marked crosswalk that had no traffic signal. A car drove along and hit the girl. She suffered serious injuries including severe brain damage and was left in a permanent vegetative state.

This crosswalk accident raised concerns over the safety of marked crosswalks (i.e. crosswalks with explicit markings to indicate you can cross the street). During the personal injury lawsuit brought forth on behalf of the brain damaged 17-year-old victim revealed a 1972 study which showed twice as many people suffered serious injuries while walking through marked crosswalks as opposed to unmarked crosswalks.

What is the reason for such a dramatic disparity? One potential reason is that people have a false sense of security when they walk through a marked crosswalk. They believe drivers should be just as aware as they are about the markings.

Unfortunately, this is not always the case. There are some marked crosswalks that do not have traffic signals or a stop sign. This means while you're crossing the street, some drivers may see the lack of signals and signs as a go-ahead to drive on through. This is a major safety risk at many intersections and far too many victims like the 17-year-old girl suffer horrific injuries because of this lack of oversight.

In the case of the seriously injured 17-year-old girl, the jury found the state 50 percent liable and the driver 30 percent liable, along with awarding the 17-year-old girl $12 million in damages. The jury found the state to have a higher share of the liability because they failed to even test the safety of the crosswalk at the intersection with the accident occurred.

Hopefully this jury award will send a signal to other state transportation agencies that they should thoroughly examine and study the safety of new intersections and marked crosswalks lacking any signals or stop signs. Taking the time to mark a crosswalk is important, but it cannot be the end of the task. Stop signs and/or signals must accompany the markings to help ensure pedestrians can safely cross our busy streets.

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