In theory, you should feel incredibly safe every time you walk across the street in a crosswalk. That walking symbol tells you that you have the right of way. Cars stop and wait for you. Other pedestrians cross in a safe, controlled manner. When everyone is out of the way, the signs change and cars start moving through the intersection again.
The reality, of course, is far more dangerous. You get things like:
- Drivers trying to rush through before pedestrians start crossing.
- Drivers turning right on a red light, perhaps watching traffic and not watching for pedestrians at all.
- Drivers turning left on a flashing red light, with the same problem as noted above
- Drivers who feel like the flashing warning sign telling pedestrians not to cross gives them permission to cut these people off or drive far too close to them.
- Drivers honking their horns to move pedestrians out of the road.
- Other drivers honking at cars that actually do stop to wait for pedestrians.
- Drivers who run red lights.
- Drivers who speed up to make it through yellow lights, even when that means they actually run the red.
- Pedestrians who run to try to make it to the crosswalk in time.
- People who simply refuse to cross at the crosswalk and jaywalk near the intersection.
- Pedestrians who start crossing right as the walk signal ends.
- Drivers who try to slowly push their way through crowds of people.
- Distracted drivers who never see pedestrians.
- Distracted pedestrians who cross at the wrong times or step right out into traffic.
- Cyclists who do not follow the rules of the road and cross at any time they want.
- Cyclists who attempt to share the sidewalk and the crosswalk with pedestrians.
In short, you almost never get the safe, orderly crossing that you should get if everything worked the way designers planned it out. It's far more chaotic and confusing, and one mistake by either party can lead to a serious accident.
Experts warn that pedestrians need to stay cautious, even when the signs tell them that they have the right of way and that it is their turn to cross. However, this is somewhat unfair. As long as pedestrians obey the law, they have no obligation to watch out for drivers who break that law. Of course, everyone should err on the side of caution, but no one should imply that it is somehow the pedestrian's fault for not being careful enough.
If you do get hit at an intersection, leaving you with significant medical bills and a long road to healing ahead of you, make sure you understand all of the potential options you have to seek out financial compensation.