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Pedestrians ,Crosswalks, and Nashville Traffic

Drive in downtown Nashville anytime of the night or day you will likely see a near miss of a pedestrian being hit by a car. One reason is that, with the exception of Lower Broad, people frequently fail to use the crosswalks. Secondly, people are using their phones when crossing the street. Pedestrians who are using their phones cross the street at a slower pace. This behavior may increase their risk of being hit by a car or maybe even a scooter. A recent study found that pedestrians using their cell phones take smaller steps and walk more erratically. According to the paper's author, Tare Sayed,"[t]he longer you are in a crosswalk, the longer you are exposed to potential conflicts and collisions."

Why is pedestrian safety important? Downtown Nashville on a weekend night is a dangerous place to not be paying attention. Mix cell phone usage with a little alcohol and not using a crosswalk and you have a recipe for disaster. A pedestrian being hit by a car can cause serious injury, and you can be charged with vehicular assault.

The Sayed article reminded me of a vehicular homicide appeal with which I helped another lawyer. The lawyer who originally tried to case failed to raise the defense of the pedestrian crossing Charlotte Avenue without using a crosswalk. This is a valid defense, but if you don't raise an issue at trial, you are barred from raising it at the appeal. Our office has handled vehicular assault cases where a pedestrian walked out in front of a car or entered an intersection too soon after a car had passed through. Now, drivers also need to be aware if someone is on their phone, just like texting and driving.

There are two takeaways. First, maybe Nashville needs a "pedestrian only" zone on Lower Broadway; and second, texting and walking near traffic may not be a good idea.

Postscript. As I was driving to work on this morning, a man used the cross walk on Charlotte crossing the crosswalk without the white light, earbuds, and talking on his phone. Luckily I stopped.

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Nashville, TN 37201

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