As a pedestrian, your safety is important.
In many situations, you’re expected to follow the rules of the road just like motor vehicles are. However, there are times when pedestrians do have the right of way over cars and trucks.
This article will explain 11 different scenarios and how they affect who has the right of way:
1. Do Pedestrians Always Have the Right of Way Over Motor Vehicles?
It’s important to note that pedestrians have the right-of-way in many situations.
In every state in the United States, it’s illegal for a driver to fail to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk. If you’re driving and see someone walking, you should slow down and stop if they are crossing in front of your car.
However, even though pedestrians always have the right of way over motor vehicles, sometimes it’s not as simple as just stopping when they want to cross the street. Pedestrians need to follow traffic laws too.
They can’t just walk out into traffic without looking both ways and ensuring it’s safe for them to proceed across the street.
If you’re on foot or riding a bike and see an oncoming vehicle, check that no cars are coming from either direction before deciding whether it’s safe for you to cross.
If cars are approaching from both directions, wait until there is a gap in traffic large enough for both vehicles and yourself to fit through before proceeding across the road.
2. Do Pedestrians Have the Right of Way at Parking Lots?
Parking lots are no different from the street because pedestrians have the right of way.
You must always give way to pedestrians in the parking lot, especially at crosswalks marked as such.
For example, if you turn left from your lane and a pedestrian is waiting to cross the parking lot, you must let them cross first before proceeding with your left turn.
If there is no designated crosswalk, a pedestrian may cross from one section of the parking lot to another. Still, it is your responsibility to yield to them.
You must also stop if a pedestrian crosses at an unmarked point between two sections of the lot or has entered the lot from an adjoining street.
3. Do Pedestrians Have the Right of Way at Crosswalks (Zebra Crossing)?
When using a crosswalk, pedestrians will have the right of way at all times. Drivers must stop and yield to pedestrians within these zones.
If you’re approaching a crosswalk and no pedestrian is waiting to cross, proceed cautiously as you approach the intersection.
Once your car has stopped completely, check for oncoming traffic before proceeding into the intersection.
However, pedestrians should remember that drivers might not always be able to see them, especially at night or in poor visibility conditions. You should also look both ways for traffic whenever you cross the street as a pedestrian.
In addition, some vehicles approaching you might be coming too quickly. They might be going too fast and won’t be able to stop for you.
So, always double-check the area before crossing the street.
Can Pedestrians Cross a Road Anywhere? (Without a Crosswalk)
4. Do Pedestrians Have the Right of Way When Jaywalking?
Jaywalking is a problem that can cause serious injuries, and it’s also a problem that can get you in trouble with the law.
Although pedestrians have the right of way at crosswalks and intersections, this does not apply to those who choose to jaywalk. Jaywalking pedestrians are not entitled to the right of way.
If pedestrians are jaywalking intentionally, the law requires them to give way to any vehicle close enough to directly threaten their safety.
Nevertheless, drivers are still responsible for keeping an eye out for pedestrians who may be jaywalking. Even if the pedestrian doesn’t have the right of way or breaks a traffic rule, the driver must stop if the driver sees the pedestrian and has time to stop.
If the driver could have avoided the collision by exercising ordinary caution, the fact that the pedestrian was jaywalking is not a valid defense.
5. Do Pedestrians Have the Right of Way at Intersections?
The right of way at an intersection belongs to pedestrians.
When approaching an intersection with a crosswalk, whether marked or not, drivers must stop and let pedestrians cross.
Even if there are no crosswalk signals, you must wait for the pedestrian to complete the crossing.
What About Unmarked Intersections?
When crossing an unmarked intersection, pedestrians typically have the right of way in most states across the United States.
This means that if a car is approaching an intersection and does not see a pedestrian crossing with the light, it is considered to be at fault for hitting them.
However, there are some states where this is not always true.
In these cases, if there are no traffic lights or stop signs at an intersection, then pedestrians must yield to cars or trucks already on the road.
6. Do Pedestrians Have the Right of Way at Stop Signs?
If you’re a pedestrian, you have the right of way at stop signs.
To put it another way, cars must stop for you if you’re in a crosswalk. They must also wait before proceeding across the intersection until you’ve passed them.
The only exception is if there is a flashing red light or a sign saying “no pedestrian.”
In this case, drivers will always have the right of way, even if driving through an intersection with a stop sign.
7. Do Pedestrians Have the Right of Way at a Four-Way Stop?
Pedestrians have the right of way at a four-way stop.
So, you must yield to them and wait if you’re driving. If you are driving and someone is in the crosswalk when you arrive at the stop sign, they have the right of way.
However, suppose there is a pedestrian in the crosswalk, and multiple vehicles come from different directions.
In that case, everyone must stop until the pedestrian is safely across.
8. Do Pedestrians Have the Right of Way at Roundabouts?
At roundabouts, pedestrians have the right of way at all times, regardless of whether or not they are in a crosswalk.
Drivers at roundabouts should slow down before entering the circle and check their mirrors and blind spots before moving into an intersection.
Pedestrians can enter a roundabout from any direction if they yield to vehicles already in the circle. However, drivers must yield to pedestrians who are crossing within a crosswalk.
9. Do Pedestrians Have the Right of Way at Junctions?
Crossing a junction is another situation where pedestrians have the right of way.
Pedestrians must be prioritized over vehicular traffic at any time when crossing a junction on foot. That means that drivers should slow down or stop if need be.
This is especially important when turning into a side street or driveway.
If an oncoming pedestrian is in your blind spot, do not make your turn until you know there’s no chance they’ll get hit by your car.
10. Do Pedestrians Have the Right of Way on a Highway?
Highways are not pedestrian crossing zones. They must stop and let vehicles pass.
It is extremely risky for pedestrians to attempt to cross the highway ahead of oncoming traffic due to the high speeds at which the vehicles are moving.
However, it doesn’t mean that drivers also don’t have a responsibility.
The driver should always look for pedestrians and slow down when necessary to avoid hitting them.
11. Do Pedestrians Have the Right of Way on Footpaths?
On a footpath, pedestrians have the right of way at all times.
This means that drivers must always stop and let them cross a footpath.
If you’re driving, you should stop and check for pedestrians before turning off a road or into a driveway.
On the other hand, if you’re walking, look both ways before crossing any street or road. Be alert and careful whenever you cross footpaths.
Do the Rules Differ Across the States?
The rules are usually different in each state and can vary depending on where you are.
In California, for example, pedestrians almost always have the right of way against any vehicle.
In Minnesota, any pedestrian entering the roadway at a location other than a marked crosswalk or an unmarked intersection must give way to traffic.
Remember that the rules may vary from state to state, so if you are unsure about the applicable regulations, it is a good idea to check the relevant statutes.
Minnesota Legislature – Office of the Revisor of Statutes | 2022 Minnesota Statutes
Laws and Rules of the Road – California DMV
California Business Journal – Driver Vs. Pedestrian: Who Has The Right Of Way?