Where Are Pedestrians at Risk in North Carolina? | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

A predawn fatal hit-and-run collision in a county northwest of Charlotte illustrates in the starkest terms that pedestrians are never safe from negligent or reckless drivers in North Carolina. The deadly crash, after which the at-fault driver was identified and arrested, happened in the Catawba County town of Long View, NC.



County police responded to reports of a man lying injured beside U.S. Highway 70 a little before 5:30 am on May 16, 2018. The man, whose name and age are being withheld from the public, died before emergency medical personnel arrived.

A combination of debris, surveillance footage, and a tip from a county resident who spotted a damaged pickup truck abandoned in a parking lot led authorities to Michael Cooke. He has been charged with felony hit and run and causing a death while operating a motor vehicle. Available evidence indicates that the pickup driver never even slowed down after hitting and fatally injuring the pedestrian.

At the location of the deadly collision near the intersection of Highway 70 and 28th Street SW, the speed limit is 55 mph and there are no sidewalks. Pedestrians can still walk there and have the right of way under North Carolina because section 20-174(d) of the state’s General Statutes explains that “where sidewalks are not provided, any pedestrian walking along and upon a highway shall, when practicable, walk only on the extreme left of the roadway or its shoulder facing traffic which may approach from the opposite direction.”

The Governors Highway Safety Association recently confirmed an impression that my Carolina wrongful death attorney colleagues and I had developed that pedestrians were becoming less safe everywhere, not just in North Carolina. As we summarize elsewhere on our website, “When the GHSA examined data from 2010 through 2015, they found that pedestrian fatalities increased 25 percent over that five-year span. The total number of traffic fatalities also increased during that time frame, but only by 6 percent. The preliminary [also] data shows that the number of fatalities between 2014 and 2016 had increased by 22 percent, and also revealed an increase of 11 percent from 2015.”

We thank the quick-acting Catawba County Police and the attentive county resident who called in the location of the hit-and-run driver’s pickup. Their efforts will allow the family of the pedestrian who got killed pursue justice through a criminal trial and seek compensation and damages by filing insurance claims or a civil wrongful death lawsuit.