Your rights as a pedestrian: What’s legal, what’s not, and avoiding a ‘traffic fatality waiting to happen’

We're digging deeper into your rights under Florida law as a pedestrian. Jacksonville sheriff's officer Christian Hancock walks us through what's legal, what's not, and the mistakes he describes as a traffic fatality waiting to happen.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Last year, 51 pedestrians were hit and killed in Duval County. In 2020, 50 people died the same way. One is too many. It’s why News4JAX turned to Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Officer Christian Hancock, a public information officer, to explain the best ways for pedestrians to stay safe in the county.

There are three things he suggests walkers consider when they cross any road. He describes certain roads in the county as a recipe for disaster if you are not extra cautious. First, know that if you are crossing a road with many lanes stacked across it, you are at a greater risk of getting hurt while crossing.

“We have these roads, like Beach Boulevard and Atlantic Boulevard, that are six to eight lanes wide and pedestrians attempting to cross all of them or cross into the center. That is a traffic fatality waiting to happen,” explained Hancock.

He stressed the importance of understanding it takes longer than you might think to cross these roads.

Second, the speed limit on a road is also a factor.

“Speeds make a big difference. Vehicles are traveling faster and a pedestrian thinks they have more time to get across, but they don’t,” said Hancock.

Third, not using a crosswalk adds to the level of danger crossing any road. Drivers should expect when they approach an intersection with a crosswalk to see someone in the road and stop. But they should also pay close attention regardless of the presence of a crosswalk, since drivers may not realize pedestrians are legally allowed to cross most roads anywhere.

“It is legal to cross a street at a 90-degree angle. It is not illegal,” said Hancock.

He said, according to Florida law, if there is a crosswalk, a pedestrian is required to cross there, but if there is not a crosswalk, they can cross, as long they do so at a 90-degree angle. This means, if a driver is not paying attention, they could be criminally charged for hitting a pedestrian even if that walker is not in a crosswalk.

Something else you should know. You are not legally allowed to walk along a street if there is a sidewalk available for you to use. If you are caught breaking this Florida law, you could be cited.

Some roads do not have sidewalks. Hancock suggests walking against the flow of traffic in those cases so you can see the cars coming toward you as opposed to walking with the flow of traffic when you can’t see what’s behind you.

“You should never assume that a driver sees you,” he said. “Walking against the flow of traffic, I can see the cars and if something happens, I can get out of the way.”

About the Author:

Jennifer, who anchors The Morning Shows and is part of the I-TEAM, loves working in her hometown of Jacksonville.