One of the basic principles of road safety as a pedestrian is to walk on the sidewalk. However, not all streets have sidewalks, even in cities and urban areas, which can lead to devastating collisions between pedestrians and vehicles.

By familiarizing yourself with pedestrian safety tips and Louisiana laws on what to do if you are walking in an area with no sidewalks, you can avoid car accidents and costly injuries.

Louisiana Sidewalk and Pedestrian Laws

Louisiana law regulates where pedestrians can walk on major roadways, including highways.

Louisiana pedestrian law LA RS 32:216 states that wherever sidewalks are provided, it is unlawful for a pedestrian to walk on or along a highway. Where sidewalks are not provided, pedestrians must walk on the left side of the road on the shoulder, facing oncoming traffic, whenever it is practical. It is illegal for a pedestrian to cross an interstate highway in Louisiana except in an emergency.

How Dangerous Are Streets Without Sidewalks?

According to the Louisiana State University Center for Analytics & Research in Transportation Safety, there were 169 pedestrian fatalities in Louisiana in 2022. They also noted that between 2009 and 2018, Louisiana experienced an increase in pedestrian deaths, making it the 11th most dangerous state in the nation for pedestrians.

While pedestrians are encouraged to follow local and state laws to maintain their own safety, many streets in Louisiana cities, including major urban areas such as Baton Rouge, lack proper sidewalks for them to use. According to the non-profit National Complete Streets Coalition, traffic accidents with pedestrians are twice as likely on streets without sidewalks, making it vital for pedestrians to know where to walk if there is no sidewalk and take measures to protect their safety.

What Can Pedestrians Do to Remain Safe Without Sidewalks?

As a pedestrian on Louisiana streets, the best way to keep yourself safe from the dangers of the road is to follow Louisiana pedestrian laws and safety practices, including the following.

Walk on the Left Side

As a pedestrian, following Louisiana law is the safest way to remain visible to drivers on a street without sidewalks. Per the state’s requirements, you must walk on the left side of the road, facing oncoming traffic.

This allows drivers to see you walking on the side, and lets you see oncoming vehicles and react accordingly, giving you enough time to dodge them or put yourself out of their way if needed. By walking in the same direction as oncoming traffic, there is no risk of a vehicle approaching you from behind unnoticed.

Ensure You Cross Safely

According to Louisiana Revised Statutes (LA RS 32:212), pedestrians intending to cross the road must leave enough space for vehicles to yield. This includes streets without sidewalks.

LA RS 32:313 specifies that pedestrians must yield the right-of-way to vehicles on the road when not crossing at a marked crosswalk. If marked crosswalks are unavailable, check for oncoming cars before crossing and only do so if the road is clear, as you do not have the right-of-way. If vehicles slow down to let you cross, make eye contact with the drivers to ensure you’ve seen each other, especially on busier streets.

Remain Visible to Other Drivers

Although it is not a legal requirement, you can enhance your safety by wearing white clothes or dressing in bright colors to help drivers see you at night or in low-visibility weather. According to LSU data, 90% of fatal pedestrian accidents occur at night.

You can also wear light-reflective, high-visibility (hi-viz) vests or bands. These items are made with micro-prismatic or glass bead tape that bounces light emitted from car headlights back to drivers, making you more visible.

Don’t Walk Distracted

Walking on a road without sidewalks is dangerous, even if you remain on the curb, as you are sharing the road surface with cars, trucks, motorcycles, and other vehicles.

This means you need to take extra precautions to remain aware of your surroundings. Avoid walking while talking, texting, or gaming on your phone, don’t listen to music wearing earbuds or headphones, and focus your eyes on the road to watch for vehicles.

Use as Little of the Road as Possible

If you are walking with a group on streets without sidewalks, walking side-by-side increases the amount of space you’ll occupy on the road, leaving less room for vehicles to pass you safely. Instead, walk in a single file, especially on windy and narrow streets, where drivers may have even less time and space to see and react to a group of pedestrians.

Safety Tips for Drivers

As a driver on streets without sidewalks, being mindful of more vulnerable road users, especially pedestrians, is essential.

  • When driving on streets without sidewalks, regularly scan the sides of the roads and watch for pedestrians—it is also important to keep in mind that not all pedestrians will know to walk on the left.
  • Be ready to slow down for crossing pedestrians.
  • Although it isn’t a legal requirement with pedestrians as it is with cyclists (per LA RS 32:76.1), when passing pedestrians on the side of the road, follow the same safe distance requirements and maintain at least three feet between them and your vehicle.
  • Louisiana has a dooring law, so be aware of pedestrians who may be passing before opening your car door, especially on busy streets and near intersections.

Speak with an Auto Accident Lawyer If You’ve Been Injured While Walking Near Traffic

Pedestrians should take safety precautions when walking on a road without sidewalks to watch for cars and prevent injuries, but it is precisely because this is so dangerous that collisions can still happen no matter how careful you are.

If you have been injured as a pedestrian on the busy streets of Louisiana, the Baton Rouge car accident lawyers at Dudley DeBosier can help you explore your legal options.

Our experienced lawyers can investigate your accident, help you understand your legal rights, and decide your next steps after the incident. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation to discuss your pedestrian accident case.

This content has been reviewed by Chad Lederman, Director of Legal Operations at our New Orleans office.

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