Right-of-Way Rules for Pedestrian Crosswalks: Marked & UnmarkedUpdated Oct. 12, 2020
Pedestrian safety at crosswalks depends on motorists respecting their right-of-way, but that’s not where your responsibility as a driver ends. Remember that many pedestrians do not have the same knowledge of right-of-way laws as drivers. You must always stop for pedestrians crossing the road. This applies to unmarked crosswalks, marked crosswalks, crosswalks at uncontrolled intersections, mid-block crosswalks and crosswalks at intersections which are controlled by traffic lights.
Preservation of human life must be your primary goal as a driver, even when traffic control devices indicate that a pedestrian should have yielded the right-of-way. Traffic lights at intersections are installed to dictate right-of-way and maintain order but they do not permit you to harm a pedestrian if you have time to stop or slow down. Pedestrians must obey traffic laws, but you must be ready to protect them if they do not.
Right-of-way at controlled crosswalks
Pedestrians must yield the right-of-way to drivers at an intersection when instructed to do so, if the movement of traffic is controlled by traffic lights or a traffic control officer. Such intersections usually have pedestrian “WALK” and “DON’T WALK” signal lights which correspond with the green, yellow and red traffic lights used for road traffic.
The presence of a green traffic light and a “DON’T WALK” signal does not mean you can drive right over a crosswalk without paying attention. Drivers must remain vigilant for pedestrians even when a traffic control device permits them to pass over a crosswalk, as a pedestrian may disobey instructions and step out into the street without warning. If this happens, you must not forcibly claim right-of-way as you could injure or kill the pedestrian.
Inoperative traffic lights
Motorists must stop prior to the pedestrian crosswalk at any intersection usually managed by traffic lights, if the signals are inoperative or malfunctioning. In this situation, the inoperative signal should be thought of as a “STOP” sign. This means you must come to a complete stop and yield to any pedestrians wishing to cross the street – and cross-traffic – before continuing into the intersection.
Stopping on a crosswalk
Motorists are forbidden to block a crosswalk when stopped prior to an intersection, or at any other time. Pedestrians may be endangered by having to walk around your vehicle, if any part of it intrudes on the crosswalk area. Blocking a crosswalk is a traffic violation for which you may be cited.
Passing at a crosswalk
This is a common cause of pedestrian fatalities at crosswalks. If there is a vehicle stopped at a pedestrian crosswalk ahead of you, do not pass them under any circumstances. The stopped vehicle could be obscuring a pedestrian using the crosswalk. Even if that is not the case, passing at a crosswalk is a serious violation for which you may receive a sizable fine and points on your license. Always assume that there are pedestrians crossing the street when approaching a vehicle waiting at a crosswalk.
Right-of-way rules for pedestrians at crosswalks
As a pedestrian, you should always have right-of-way on crosswalks. Drivers approaching the crosswalk must yield but you are not automatically protected from harm just because you have right-of-way. You must consider this crosswalk right-of-way guidance to stay safe and keep traffic flowing smoothly.
At uncontrolled intersections, make sure that motorists approaching the crosswalk have seen you and are stopping before you step out into the road.
Pedestrians must not linger, stop or unnecessarily delay traffic while using a crosswalk.
As a pedestrian, you must obey traffic signals or the instructions given by authorized traffic control personnel, when they are present. Do not cross the street if a “DON’T WALK” or palm signal is displayed above a crosswalk.
Exercise caution when crossing the street at an intersection with inoperative traffic lights. Motorists should treat the intersection as if it were controlled by a “STOP” sign and come to a complete stop before the crosswalk, though not all drivers will obey this rule.
Always remain alert around crosswalks.
Just as motorists must respect pedestrians, pedestrians must respect motorists. Remember that drivers do not wish to hit you any more than you wish to be hit. Respect a driver’s right-of-way if a green traffic light indicates they may go and always give them enough time to yield at uncontrolled intersections.
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