What Are The Pedestrian Right of Way Laws?

Accidents involving pedestrians can be especially challenging, as sometimes it isn’t clear who is at fault. You might have heard some of these common misconceptions about pedestrian laws:

  • “The laws are the same nationally.”
  • “Pedestrians always have the right of way.”
  • “I can cross anywhere, and if a car hits me, they’re at fault.”
  • “There’s no way I’d get killed crossing the road!”

You probably won’t be shocked to find out that none of these statements are 100% true, and these inaccuracies can be dangerous. In 2016 alone, someone died from a fatal pedestrian accident every 1.5 hours. Failing to understand traffic safety laws on the side of both the driver and pedestrian is an often deadly mistake.
Considering that everyone is a pedestrian at some point during the day, it’s important to be aware of your rights and safety guidelines. Let’s go over some key safety rules you need to know.

What are my rights?

Knowing your rights as a pedestrian can be tricky. The laws vary from state to state and can be confusing for the average layperson to understand. For instance, in Minnesota, a driver must stop if a pedestrian is in any portion of the road, while in Nebraska, the driver only must yield if the pedestrian is on the same half of the lane. There is no national ruling for the proper way of pedestrian right of way when crossing a road. Of course, we have best practices, but the exact law differs across state lines.
Jaywalking is another example of where there may be a legal gray area. Some cities and municipalities have made jaywalking a crime, while others say it is perfectly legal. There may be some circumstances where jaywalking is legal — getting into a cab, for example — and there may be times when you get a ticket. When traffic crashes are involved, it depends on the specific circumstances surrounding the accident.
Don’t assume you are automatically at fault if you cross at an unmarked crossing. There are many factors that go into play in a pedestrian-involved accident. If you have been hit and you aren’t certain of the law, a personal injury lawyer will be able to help you.

Pedestrian safety tips

Though many cases of pedestrians being struck by cars is the fault of the driver, there are some times when the pedestrian could have prevented the accident. Following proper safety procedures decreases your odds of being the victim of a crash.
Next time you cross the street, keep this advice in mind:

  • Obey traffic rules. This rule is just as obvious as it sounds —  always follow all of the posted rules of any crossing, no matter where you are. If the sign says don’t walk, you shouldn’t walk. Not only does this make it easier to get in a collision, it may be used against your legal defense. It’s hard to say that you were truly not at fault if you intentionally walked when told not to.
  • Be visible. If you’re walking out at night, try to wear clothing that is light and bright. Wearing all black in the dark will hide you from drivers, making it easy to hit you by mistake. With 3 out of every 4 fatal pedestrian crashes happening at night, it’s a clear risk factor. Consider traveling in groups too. A single person crossing alone may not stick out visually. When possible, cross with others to avoid getting looked over by an unobservant driver.
  • Consider stopping time. In a perfect world, a car would be able to stop right before they hit you, avoiding the accident entirely. However, vehicles have a minimum stopping time, regardless of if there is a pedestrian in front of them. For a car going 55 miles per hour, this minimum stopping distance can be as long as a football field. This doesn’t include factors like how big the vehicle is, the state of its tires, the weather conditions and if the driver is paying attention. Keep this in mind as you walk; don’t assume a car is far enough away that jaywalking is okay.

Have you or a loved one been injured by a careless driver while crossing the road?
Contact Tolbert Beadle. During your free consultation, we can discuss your case and make a plan to get the results you deserve.