It is a common courtesy frequently exercised in the Pittsburgh area to wave a waiting car over while a person is sitting in traffic. The other driver may be waiting to cross an opposing lane of travel to enter a parking lot or to enter a side street and, while sitting there, a driver will wave a person across their lane.
Sometimes doing so will lead to an accident. Suppose there are two lanes of travel in one direction and a driver stopped in one lane waves over an oncoming car. The oncoming car attempts to cross both lanes and is struck by a vehicle traveling in the second of the two lanes. Who is at fault? Certainly some of the fault lies on the crossing vehicle because that driver has a duty to yield the right of way to the vehicle in the lane of travel that he is crossing.
Are you liable if you wave another driver across your lane of travel?
The more interesting question is whether there is some legal liability on the part of the driver who waved the other driver across. Basically there are two major positions taken by courts in the United States. The first is that a motorist cannot interpret a wave by another motorist as anything more than a yield of the right of way by the waving driver; a gesture of courtesy. What this means is that the waving driver is allowing another driver to pass in front of him but is making no representation as to the safety of the passage over other lanes of travel or in other areas beyond directly in front of the waving driver’s own vehicle.
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A second view, and the view that is taken by Pennsylvania courts, is that whether a driver waving another driver across a roadway intends to communicate anything more than a yield of passage is a matter that can be determined by a jury. Pennsylvania courts will look at the full circumstances of the incident to determine whether or not the waving driver can be held liable.
The factors to be considered are
- the type of signal given;
- the reasonable interpretation of the signal given;
- whether or not giving the signal was negligent; and
- whether the negligent signaling was a cause of the accident in question. See Askew by Askew v. Zeller, 521 A.2d 459 (PA Super, 1987)
What this means is that a person may be held liable for an accident if the person waves another person across a lane of travel. Suppose the waving party gestures over and over for the other car to cross. This may be interpreted as an indication that it is safe to cross and if there is a collision, the waving driver may be held laible for any injuries sustained. If the waving driver stops, gives a quick wave, then nothing more, it may be that a judge will rule that the waving driver is not liable for any injuries sustained.
As a driver, one should know what the rules of the road are, but one should also know what how the courts interpret the law where there are not specific rules of the road. What the courts are saying in these types of cases is that one can be courteous, but one should be careful when one does so. This is an important rule to know in the Pittsburgh area, where it is very common to see one driver stop to leave room for a crossing vehicle and then signal them to cross over.
Contact Attorney Matvey at 724-709-7958