When a driver backs up onto a public street, the driver backs up into open traffic. The possibility of a collision is present. Because of this, drivers who back up onto public streets must exercise caution. Drivers must be on the lookout for traffic on the street. They must be sure to yield the right of way to oncoming vehicles.
Drivers must also ensure that they do not back up at an excessive rate of speed. Doing so may cause a collision with another vehicle. It may also cause property damage. Drivers must also observe all posted signals, signs, and other warnings before backing up onto a public street.
Collisions With Other Vehicles
A driver may negligently back up onto a public street, damaging a vehicle or colliding with a pedestrian. In such instances, the injured vehicle occupant or pedestrian may be able to sue for negligence. When a driver backs up onto a public roadway, especially a highway, the driver is confronted with oncoming traffic. The driver who backs up, whether from a driveway, parking space, or parallel parking space, has a different duty of care than the oncoming car. This is because the oncoming car has the right of way.
The driver backing up must use caution appropriate to the circumstances. This includes properly signaling, waiting until it is safe to merge with oncoming traffic, and observing the instructions of traffic signals and signs. Since the oncoming vehicle has the right of way, the driver of that vehicle will generally not be found negligent in a collision. This is not always the case. If the oncoming vehicle is driving excessively fast or engaged in reckless driving may be found to be negligent.
That driver is responsible for maintaining their lane, observing the speed limit, and being aware of their surroundings. The driver may also have a duty to yield. There reaches a point where a car has backed out far enough into a public street that other drivers must yield. In these situations, the driver in the oncoming traffic is responsible for reducing speed or yield. The driver must do so to prevent an accident.
In some instances, both the driver backing out and the driver in the public lane may be negligent. Which driver is liable for damages caused by injuries depends on state negligence law. Some states have a contributory negligence system. This system prevents an injured plaintiff from receiving damages if the plaintiff was partially at fault. The fault can be slight, even as low as one percent.
Other states have a comparative negligence system. In a comparative negligence system, the degree of each party’s negligence is considered when awarding damages. Say a plaintiff is 20% at fault for the accident. The other driver is 80% at fault. In comparative negligence cases, the plaintiff who sues in court may be awarded 80% of their total damages. This is instead of the plaintiff being awarded 100%. 20% of the damages are taken out of the sum awarded since the plaintiff was 20% at fault.
Some states have a different comparative negligence system. Under this system, a plaintiff can recover damages in the full amount if the defendant’s degree of fault is higher than the plaintiff’s.
Collisions With Pedestrians
Collisions with pedestrians may allow a pedestrian to sue for damages due to negligence. Just like oncoming traffic, pedestrians have the right of way over motor vehicles. This right of way is vindicated visually. Visual signals include signage that states, “yield to pedestrian traffic,” or lights that turn green specifically for pedestrians at a crosswalk.
Pedestrians who are not blocking the path of an oncoming vehicle generally are not at fault if that vehicle strikes them. This is the case provided the pedestrian has been mindful of their surroundings and has observed traffic signs and signals.
Pedestrians have their own responsibility to exercise caution. This means that pedestrians must not cross the street in an unmarked area. A pedestrian must observe the signals at an intersection. Pedestrians walking on the street (jaywalking) or crossing when it is not their turn put drivers at greater risk of colliding with them. While a driver entering a public street must exercise appropriate care, the driver is not negligent if the pedestrian they strike darts out in front of the driver with no warning or crosses the street where the driver is unlikely to see them.
In these cases, it is more likely the pedestrian will be negligent. Pedestrians who stand directly in the driver’s path, such as pedestrians in a driveway that a vehicle backs out of, must exercise extra caution. Extra caution is required because a pedestrian directly in the path of a vehicle backing up may have an opportunity to avoid a collision by removing themselves from the path if they can do so safely.
Special caution on the driver’s part is needed when the pedestrian is a child. When a driver is driving in an area where children are nearby, the driver must exercise extra care. Children, particularly those aged 5-9, are smaller and less visible to drivers. Children also have a slower ability to react in a situation requiring rapid judgment of exercise. In some areas, such as areas near parks, schools, and residential areas, the driver must be especially careful.
These areas typically have warning signs indicating the presence of children and the need to watch for them. A driver not observing the speed limit or engaged in distracted driving may fail to notice the signal. If the driver does not slow down and injures a pedestrian child, the driver has acted negligently. Sometimes, the area may not have a warning sign. If the area is one where children are known to be present, the driver still must exercise extra caution.
Bicyclists may also collide with a driver backing up from a driveway onto a public street. They are required to exercise appropriate care by observing bicycle crossing signs. Bicyclists must ensure they are visible by using appropriate headlights and taillights. As between a car backing up onto a public roadway, and a bicyclist, neither necessarily has the right of way.
States often regard bicycles as motor vehicles for traffic law purposes. Still, because bicycles are generally slower than motor vehicles, most states have special bicycle laws to ensure bicyclist safety. Bicyclists and motor vehicles must obey these laws.
Should I Contact an Attorney About Auto Collisions When Backing a Car Onto a Public Street?
If you have backed your vehicle into a public street and an accident results, you should contact a car accident attorney. If your vehicle was on a public street and struck a pedestrian or other vehicle, you should contact an attorney.
An experienced attorney near you can review the facts of your case. The attorney, who is familiar with the relevant traffic law, can advise you about your rights and options. The attorney can also represent in traffic court and personal injury proceedings.
Lastly, your attorney can keep you advised if there are any changes in the law that might affect your legal rights.