True or False: Pedestrians Always Have the Right of Way

As you’re waiting for the traffic light to change, you notice two women on the side of the road patiently waiting for their turn to cross; you also notice that a little further down the sidewalk another pedestrian is wandering toward the crosswalk. As the light turns green you make sure the two women are still waiting as you take your foot off the brake. Suddenly, the “wanderer” appears in front of the two women, ignores the “Don’t Walk” signal, and walks straight into your car. You slam on the brakes as he takes off his headphones, slams his fist onto your hood and starts screaming at you. “What are you doing? Didn’t anyone ever tell you that pedestrians always have the right of way!?”

Your heart is beating out of your chest, you’re starting to shake and his words are ringing in your ears. He hits your car again, shakes his head at you and backs up to stand by the now bewildered women. The cars behind you are honking for you to go, but all you can think about is that even though you had the green light, and what you thought was the right of way, you could have just killed this guy.

So were you wrong? Do pedestrians always have the right of way, no matter what?

The answer is, no, they don’t.

Vehicle vs. Pedestrian Right of Way

It’s true that vehicles must always be cautious around pedestrians. In a collision, the sheer weight and force of a car will ultimately cause more damage to a person than the person will cause to the car, so it’s only practical that cars try to avoid pedestrian accidents.

However, just because drivers are more thoroughly protected and lookout for less protected individuals, doesn’t give pedestrians a free pass to just assume all cars, in any given situation, will automatically yield or stop for them. Every situation is different and in every situation, right of way for both vehicles and pedestrians is established (based on safety and traffic laws) and must be respected.

Vehicles must yield:

  • When a yield sign is posted
  • When a pedestrian is in a crosswalk or the pedestrian has the “Walk” signal to cross. Generally, when pedestrian signals say “Walk,” vehicles will have a red light and should already be stopped. Pay special attention to left turns, as pedestrians can be hard to spot
  • To blind pedestrians using a white cane or seeing eye dog
  • When exiting a parking spot or driveway

Although they have the right of way, vehicles should always pay attention to pedestrians to avoid an accident; the fault of the pedestrian won’t lessen the tragedy.

Pedestrians only truly have the right of way on sidewalks and in crosswalks, which is why if you have to cross the street it is always safest to find a crosswalk. If you’re hit while not in a crosswalk, you may be at fault.

Although you may think that, as a pedestrian, you always have the right of way, your incorrect assumption could get you killed. Make sure you always look both ways, verify that cars are stopped before crossing the street and never walk against pedestrian signals.

Do you believe your pedestrian accident was caused by a driver disregarding your right of way or failing to properly yield? Don’t hesitate any longer. Contact us today for a free consultation to discuss your injuries, your rights and your potential claim.

Also, make sure your family and friends don’t continue to have the wrong assumptions about who has the right of way. Protect them by sharing this page via Facebook or by telling them to contact us directly for more information.