When Does a Legally Blind Person Have the Right-of-Way?
Posted: May 9, 2022
Over nearly 100 years, traffic laws regarding right-of-way for the visually impaired have evolved into the standards we follow today. Their ultimate goal is to protect both the visually impaired and motorists from harm’s way.
Not sure when blind individuals have the right-of-way? To learn more about visual impairment and road safety, this is the article for you.
What Are White Cane Laws?
Broadly speaking, White Cane Laws are state-by-state statutes regulating road safety for visually impaired pedestrians. The name comes from the iconic cane carried by many individuals who are low-vision or legally blind.
In the 1930s, medical providers introduced white canes as means of assisting visually impaired people so that they could navigate through crowds, across sidewalks, and within buildings more easily. These valuable tools also allow motorists to identify and yield to people using a white cane. In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson created White Cane Safety Day on October 15th to raise awareness of individuals that carry a white cane.
Visually impaired people require canes for their own safety. While most canes are still white, nowadays, they are also available in blue, yellow, black, and red. If you see an individual navigating with a cane, this signifies that the person is fully blind or experiencing a low vision.
Does a Legally Blind Person Always Have the Right-of-Way?
Many people mistakenly believe that White Cane Laws require drivers to yield to or stop for pedestrians with white canes. While there is some truth to this assumption, the laws in each state vary greatly. In some states, drivers do not need to come to a complete stop in the presence of someone with a white cane.
For instance, some states require drivers to yield to the visually impaired or require a complete stop. However, other states may only require the drivers to be cautious when seeing someone with a white cane. Yet other states may provide no special protections to visually impaired pedestrians that are not provided to all pedestrians.
To get an idea of what White Cane Laws may look like, here is an example from California:
“A totally or partially blind pedestrian who is carrying a predominately white cane (with or without a red tip), or using a guide dog, shall have the right-of-way. The driver of any vehicle approaching this pedestrian, who fails to yield the right-of-way, or to take all responsibility necessary precautions to avoid injury to this blind pedestrian, is guilty of a misdemeanor. Punishable by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding six months, or by a fine of not less than five hundred dollars ($500), no more than one thousand dollars ($1,000), or both. This section shall not preclude prosecution under any other applicable provision of law.” — CA Vehicle Code 21963
While White Cane Laws are typically included in each state driver’s manual, even seasoned drivers may benefit from refamiliarizing themselves with these regulations. To be sure of the law in your area, check your state’s White Cane Law for specifics or consult a legal professional with any questions.
Safety Tips for Sighted Drivers
As a sighted driver, it’s your responsibility to ensure that all pedestrians, including the visually impaired, can safely cross the street. Take the following actions to ensure that all parties are safe:
Come to a complete stop at least 5 feet away from the crosswalk. Visually impaired or fully blind pedestrians may hear the sound of your car’s engine to discern where the crosswalk boundaries are located. If your vehicle is on the crosswalk, it could be impossible for them to judge whether or not the area is safe.
Do not honk at people with a white cane or guide dog. Not only could this startle the person, but it is essential to understand that the visually impaired individual will have no clue why you are honking in the first place.
Don’t hesitate to ask if a visually impaired person needs assistance. If a visually impaired or blind person appears to be struggling, ask them for permission to help. If the individual asks you to help them, offer your arm. They will grasp your arm above your elbow and follow your lead.
Driving and Visual Impairment
Some drivers may also struggle with visual impairment, even if they haven’t realized it yet. For instance, certain licenses may require corrective lenses for the holder to drive.
If you’re concerned about your vision, ensure that you are going to the doctor for yearly eye tests. Going many years without an eye check-up can cause significant damage to your vision. However, once a year is generally sufficient for optimal vision. This is especially important if you work a job that requires you to spend hours in front of a computer screen or if you are required to drive for long periods of time.
Furthermore, aging drivers may struggle with deteriorating vision as well. As a person ages, their pupils shrink, and their retinas receive less light. If your eyesight is worsening to the extent that it affects your ability to drive, pay close attention to the laws of the road, and consult an eye specialist to resolve your vision problems.
Obtain Legal Assistance with LegalFix
If you’re facing a traffic ticket, citation, liability claim, or lawsuit regarding the White Cane Law, you need to understand the law and seek the assistance of a lawyer if necessary. Even legal matters that seem straightforward at first can quickly escalate, so when issues of this nature arise, visit LegalFix.com for free information.