Pedestrian and Crosswalk Laws
One common misconception about driving is knowing when it is necessary to stop for a pedestrian. While it can be confusing, it is vital information to learn, as getting hit by a car can be deadly to a pedestrian. To keep the roads safe for both drivers and pedestrians, it is crucial to know when it is okay to drive through a crosswalk.
About 7,000 people in the year 2020 alone were killed after being hit by a vehicle (that’s one about every hour and 15 minutes). For those who were not killed, many still experienced severe injuries such as broken bones, soft tissue damage, spinal cord injuries, and brain trauma. In these instances, drivers are at risk for litigation and increases in their insurance premiums.
Do Pedestrians Always Have the Right of Way?
No. Pedestrians do not always have the right of way when crossing a street. However, depending on the state you live in, there are different bylaws that directly impact how drivers need to respond to pedestrians. This article will discuss the importance of these laws and highlight the differences between state laws regarding pedestrians and drivers.
Laws for Drivers Regarding Pedestrians
One of the states that have the most outlined guidelines on crosswalk laws regarding a pedestrian crossing the road in Minnesota. In Minnesota, the law now requires a vehicle to stop when a pedestrian is in any portion of the roadway—controlled or uncontrolled.
Drivers in that state must now stop for crossing pedestrians at marked crosswalks, unmarked crosswalks, and at all intersections without crosswalks or stop lights.
Although Minnesota pedestrians are not permitted to enter a crosswalk if a vehicle is approaching and it is impossible for the driver to stop safely, there is no defined distance that a pedestrian must abide by before entering the crosswalk.
Furthermore, whenever a vehicle is stopped at a Minnesota intersection to allow pedestrians to cross the roadway, it is illegal for drivers of other vehicles approaching from the rear to pass the stopped vehicle. This includes buses and personal vehicles.
In the state of New Jersey, a vehicle must stop for a pedestrian within a marked crosswalk. However, they may only yield to pedestrians crossing within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection as they have the right of way.
Nineteen states put the burden on vehicles to stop and yield if a pedestrian is located anywhere in the roadway. These states include:
- New York
- And others
Some of these states have specific stipulations regarding the placement of pedestrians in the crosswalks. Some state laws explain that pedestrians cannot suddenly go into the crosswalk when it is unmarked, or there are no traffic control devices present.
For example, some states, like Louisiana, require a vehicle to yield only if the pedestrian is on their half of the road, but not if they are on the other half. This requires pedestrians to stop and wait as traffic passes.
The state of Nebraska requires yielding to pedestrians if the pedestrian is on the same half of the roadway or within one lane of the vehicle.
However, other states, like Massachusetts, require the vehicle to stop and yield if the pedestrian is on the same half of the roadway or within ten (10) feet of the motorist. Despite this, some states—including Hawaii, Georgia, Oregon, South Dakota, Virginia, and Washington, treat uncontrolled crosswalks the same as controlled crosswalks.
In general, drivers of motor vehicles must exercise what is known as reasonable care to avoid striking a pedestrian. Reasonable care means that there are extra precautions taken to make sure that accidents are avoided, and everything done by the driver is done to avoid injury to both person and property.
The laws of many states impose a higher duty of care when it comes to pedestrians who are children, elderly, or have a disability such as blindness.
However, a pedestrian cannot walk into the roadway without exercising reasonable care and keeping a proper lookout. A pedestrian who fails to do this is guilty of contributory negligence, which means that the driver may not be at fault if an accident occurs. States also have outlined specific pedestrian traffic laws that need to be practiced by all pedestrians.
White Cane Laws
A subset of these pedestrian laws directly corresponds to blind pedestrians. These laws are known as White Cane Laws, and each state also has its own respective laws regarding these pedestrians, which are outlined here.
Why Does it Matter?
Aside from the fact that we want to avoid injuring other people as much as possible, there are other reasons why it is important to yield to traffic laws regarding pedestrians.
Failure to yield to pedestrians can mean having to pay fines anywhere between $150-$500 for first-time offenders depending on the state, with fines increasing per offense. Some of these also can come with jail time for drivers failing to pay fines or multi-time offenders. These fines also do not include the court costs that come with appearing before the court or disputing the offense.
On top of that, some states may also require community service to be done to make up for the offense.
These penalties can be worse still if the driver was distracted by being on their cell phone or if they were under the influence.
These can also lead to points on the individual’s license, a suspension of the person’s license, or even revocation of their driving privileges.
If you want to make sure you are driving safely and have the proper knowledge of the roadway and your rights as a driver, then you should consider taking our Defensive Driving Course.
Our courses are designed to give you the information you need for safe driving.
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