Pedestrians Have the Right of Way in South Carolina

A pedestrian walking across the street to Anderson University was struck on Wednesday, September 17, 2014, according to WSPA and other media outlets. 

pedestrian, or any person on foot, has duties just like those driving motor vehicles to be responsible, however, sometimes the higher duty and responsibility remains with the driver of the motor vehicle to be more alert and observant.

South Carolina Drivers' Manual is where we all started and had to learn the "rules of the road" before being granted permission to get our license. After the introduction, the manual goes into "General Information", more specifically the subsection entitled, "Sharing the Road" states:

It is your responsibility as a driver to be on the lookout and to take every precaution possible to not injure a person on foot. If you see a vehicle, pedestrian or children near the road, you should slow down and be prepared to stop. (General Information p.45)

The South Carolina Code of Laws sets forth a few reminders for all of us drivers on the roadways as it pertains to pedestrians:

  1. SECTION 56-5-3230. Drivers to exercise due care.

    Notwithstanding other provisions of any local ordinance, every driver of a vehicle shallexercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian or any person propelling a human-powered vehicle and shall give an audible signal when necessary and shall exercise proper precaution upon observing any child or any obviously confused, incapacitated or intoxicated person.

  2. SECTION 56-5-1520. General rules as to maximum speed limits; lower speeds may be required.

    (A) A person shall not drive a vehicle on a highway at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions and having regard to the actual and potential hazards then existing. Speed must be so controlled to avoid colliding with a person, vehicle, or other conveyance on or entering the highway in compliance with legal requirements and the duty of a person to use care.

    (F) The driver of a vehicle shall drive, consistent with the requirements of subsection (A), at an appropriate reduced speed when approaching and crossing an intersection or railway grade crossing, when approaching and going around a curve, approaching a hillcrest, when traveling upon any narrow bridge, narrow or winding roadway, and when special hazard exists with respect to pedestrians or other traffic or by reason of weather or highway conditions.

South Carolina case law follows in line with the before mentioned rules in stating:

  • One operating a motor vehicle on a public highway owes an urgent duty to keep a proper lookout and to keep the vehicle under proper control.  Yaun v. Baldridge, 134 S.E.2d 248, 251 (S.C.1964).
  • Negligence is established as a matter of law if the only inference is that either the driver did not look or did so in such a careless fashion as not to see what was in plain view. Williams v. Davis, 243 S.C. 524, 134 S.E.2d 760 (1964).

No one may truly know what happened during the incident. However, this is a time to remind all of us who get behind the wheel to just remain alert and vigilant to our surroundings.