How are Washington DC’s Pedestrian Countdown Signals Better than Virginia’s or Maryland’s?

By Cory Bilton

Pedestrian Countdown Signal

Uniformity is good when it comes to traffic signs and signals. Uniformity helps us to recognize meaning without spending too much time thinking about it. For example, a stop sign is easily recognizable and meaningful, even if your brain doesn’t take the time to read the word “STOP.” The red octagon with white lettering is quickly recognizable and instantly meaningful. Generally, uniformity in traffic devices is very useful and helps us all get along safely.

However, signs and signals also have to make good common sense. If they don’t, people are going to ignore them. For example, if a stop sign were placed mid-block, without any obvious purpose or meaning, drivers’ will have a variety of responses to it. Some may still stop. Others will only slow down. And still others will probably blow right through it. The reason is that it is nonsensical to place a stop sign mid-block. Placing stop signs at intersections, however, agrees with our common sense. So in such instances we submit to the sign’s command.

Pedestrian countdown signals are a great example of a uniform signal that doesn’t always connect with common sense. Pedestrians are often confused by them or disregard them. In fact, even lawyers, police officers, and lawmakers are sometimes confused by them (and disregard them). There is principled disagreement about countdown signals, too. In fact, pedestrian countdown signals in Washington, DC are actually different than the ones in Virginia or Maryland. The following summary covers the law, the sources, and the policies of pedestrian countdown signals in the Washington, DC metropolitan area.

Continue reading

RGR v. Settle Redux: New Opinion and New Issues

By Cory Bilton

GW Parkway To GT

In its latest release of opinions, the Supreme Court of Virginia issued a new opinion in the RGR v. Settle case (which I’ll call “Settle II”), reaching the opposite conclusion of the prior decision. Back in June, I wrote that the Court’s first opinion in RGR v. Settle (“Settle I”) reached an untenable position. Settle I held that the victim in the case was contributorily negligent as a matter of law because “no reasonable minds could differ” on the matter, despite the fact that there was a two-justice dissent. Now, Settle II spills many bytes on an issue that was not even mentioned in Settle I. In my opinion, there is no way to reconcile these two opinions with legal reasoning alone. Instead, to me this is a candid view into the world of judging. Turns out justices are just people, too.

Continue reading

Washington DC Adopts New Insurance Requirements for Uber Cars

By Cory Bilton

Falls Church Bridge Fog

Far-sighted lawyers, law-makers, and citizens have been voicing concern about what happens in the event of an accident with a ridesharing service like Uber and Lyft. In January this year, an UberX driver struck and killed a child in San Francisco. Following the collision, Uber denied liability, claiming that its driver was in-between fares, a time in which Uber doesn’t provide insurance coverage. Without Uber’s insurance covering the collision, the family that lost their child would only be able to pursue the driver as an individual, and maybe his personal insurance (that is a long shot; most personal automobile insurance excludes coverage when the personal car is being operated as a vehicle-for-hire).

To avoid this type of uncertainty and in an attempt to clarify liability following an accident, the DC City Council has passed bill 20-0753, the Vehicle-for-hire Innovation Amendment Act of 2014. If signed into law by Mayor Gray, the bill will create numerous new laws to label, categorize, and insure ride-sharing vehicles operating with companies like Uber and Lyft. Here is a summary of the new insurance requirements:

Continue reading