October 27th, 2022

Maryland Pedestrian Safety: What Runners Need to Know

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Maryland laws consider runners to be “pedestrians,” and there is an entire chapter in the Maryland Transportation Code relating to pedestrian rights and responsibilities. In honor of Pedestrian Safety Month, it’s important to review several of the pedestrian laws in order to help keep runners in Maryland safe.

FIRST THINGS FIRST: Contributory Negligence. Maryland is one of just five states in the country to still follow the principle of “Contributory Negligence.” This means that if a runner had any fault at all in the incident that caused the injury, the runner cannot recover from the primarily at-fault party (or that person’s insurance) for their injuries. For example, if you cross the street where there is a solid red pedestrian walk sign, and you are hit by a car that is speeding through a green light, you cannot recover any money from the driver to pay for the cost of your injuries, even if the driver blatantly admits to watching YouTube videos while driving. You may be thinking that you have a great insurance plan and would not need the help. If you are lucky enough to sustain minor injuries, that might be true. If you just need an ambulance ride, that cost could range from free for a county resident to $500. The average cost of a Medevac helicopter ride, however, is $12,000 – $25,000. In either case, that amount is before any surgery or physical therapy, and the costs can add up quickly.

WHAT CAN YOU DO TO PROTECT YOURSELF? Better understanding of applicable laws will ensure that you know how to keep yourself safe.Here are is a summary of some of those laws with explanations.

MD Code Transportation, §21-501. Pedestrians Required to Obey Traffic Control Signals

Pedestrians need to obey traffic control signals if they want to keep their right of way advantage. That means that if your running group wants to stay together, and the crosswalk light starts blinking, that is not an invitation to add some speed work to your tempo run. It means you do not have time to make it and you should wait, and then cross together when you have the walk signal.

MD Transportation Code, §21-502. Rights of pedestrians when crossing roadway in a crosswalk

Drivers must yield the right of way to pedestrians in a crosswalk, but only when the pedestrian follows these rules:

Pedestrian prohibited from walking or running into path of vehicle…

A pedestrian may not suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is impossible for the driver to yield…

If a pedestrian does not follow these rules, they can get a ticket. “A person convicted of a violation of this section is subject to imprisonment not exceeding 2 months or a fine not exceeding $1,000 or both.”

Run with the speed of a hare, and not like a suicidal squirrel.

MD Transportation Code, §21-503. Pedestrians not crossing at crosswalk

  • If a pedestrian crosses a roadway at any point other than in a marked crosswalk or in an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection, the pedestrian shall yield the right-of-way to any vehicle approaching on the roadway.

If you are crossing in an area that does not have a crosswalk, make sure you: First look left, right, and then left again, to make sure there are no cars coming.

Crossing between adjacent intersections with traffic control signals

(c) Between adjacent intersections at which a traffic control signal is in operation, a pedestrian may cross a roadway only in a marked crosswalk.

Crossing roadway intersection diagonally

(d) A pedestrian may not cross a roadway intersection diagonally unless authorized by a traffic control device for crossing movements. If authorized to cross diagonally, a pedestrian may cross only in accordance with the traffic control device.

These two subsections speak for themselves.

MD Transportation Code, §21-505. Pedestrians required to walk on right half of crosswalk.

In crowded areas, such as near the entrance to the Capital Crescent Trail, running groups should be mindful not to take over the whole crosswalk.

MD Transportation Code, §21-506. Rules for pedestrians walking along and on roadways.

When sidewalks provided

  • Where a sidewalk is provided, a pedestrian may not walk along and on an adjacent roadway.
  • Where a sidewalk is not provided, a pedestrian who walks along and on a highway[1], may only walk on the left shoulder, if practicable, or on the left side of the roadway, as near as practicable to the roadway, facing any traffic that might approach from the opposite.

21-510. Pedestrians required to yield right-of-way to emergency vehicles.

This last one, hopefully, goes without saying.

In closing, runners must be their own advocates, and that starts with being vigilant about safety and the safety of anyone you run with, including pace groups and running mates. Wear bright, reflective clothing for visibility, especially during the months with shorter days, run with a cell phone, or smartwatch that can call for help in the event of an emergency, and be sure to stop, look and listen before proceeding. “Green” (or in our case, “white”) does not necessarily mean “go.”

For more information or with questions, please feel free to reach out to me, Jamie Alvarado-Taylor, at jalvaradotaylor@steinsperling.com. You can also visit the Maryland Department of Transportation’s website: zerodeathsmd.gov.

[1] MD Code, Transportation, § 11-127 (2010) as noted here is any public roadway intended for cars, rather than simply an interstate.