In most situations, drivers must yield to pedestrians on the sidewalk or crosswalks. Regardless of whether a crosswalk is marked or unmarked, drivers must stop their vehicles if a pedestrian is crossing through their part of the road.
While this is true, you may wonder, “Do pedestrians always have the right of way?”
At Bernard Law Group, our personal injury lawyers represent accident victims, including pedestrians. Here, we explain Washington’s pedestrian laws and clarify when pedestrians do and (if) they do not have the right of way.
Understanding Pedestrian Right of Way in Washington State
Washington State law is clear about pedestrian rights, especially concerning crosswalks. Generally, pedestrians have the right of way at all marked and unmarked crosswalks. However, this does not grant unconditional rights to pedestrians.
The law also emphasizes that pedestrians must act responsibly and not suddenly leave a curb or other safe places to walk or run into the path of a vehicle so close the driver can’t stop.
This balance between rights and responsibilities is crucial in maintaining safety.
Pedestrian Rights and Responsibilities
While pedestrians often have the right of way, they also have specific rules they must follow. Some of the laws that pedestrians must know and follow include:
- Traffic signals: Pedestrians must obey traffic control devices and signals unless they are directed by a police or traffic officer to do something else.
- Sidewalks: Bicyclists and drivers must yield to pedestrians in crosswalks and on sidewalks.
- Roadway use: Pedestrians must use sidewalks when available. If no sidewalks are available, pedestrians must walk on the left side of the road or the shoulder facing oncoming traffic.
- Traffic: No bicyclist or pedestrian should make a sudden move to leave the curb and into traffic, making it impossible for a driver to stop.
- Yield to vehicles: All pedestrians crossing the road at any point besides a marked or unmarked crosswalk at an intersection must yield the right of way to vehicles on the road.
What Is the Difference in Marked and Unmarked Crosswalks
A marked crosswalk is indicated by painted lines, symbols, or signs on the road surface, often accompanied by pedestrian signals. These are typically found at intersections and are designed to clearly guide pedestrians on where to cross safely. They serve as a visible reminder for drivers to yield to pedestrians.
On the other hand, unmarked crosswalks are not physically marked on the road but legally exist at most intersections. They are extensions of the sidewalk across the street, forming an implied crosswalk.
While less visible, drivers must still yield to pedestrians at these crossings. The main difference lies in visibility: marked crosswalks are easily noticeable, while unmarked ones require pedestrians and drivers to be more vigilant.
Both crosswalks carry the same legal weight, emphasizing pedestrian safety as a shared responsibility.
When Pedestrian Accidents Occur
Despite laws and precautions, pedestrian accidents still occur. When a pedestrian accident happens, determining liability can be complex.
Several factors impact liability. These include:
The pedestrian’s behavior during the incident is a crucial factor. Actions such as crossing at a designated crosswalk, obeying pedestrian signals, and walking attentively without distractions (like using a phone) demonstrate responsible behavior.
Conversely, jaywalking, crossing against a traffic signal, or being under the influence of alcohol or drugs can suggest negligence on the part of the pedestrian. These actions are weighed to determine if the pedestrian contributed to the accident.
The driver’s conduct is equally critical in determining fault. Adherence to traffic laws, such as speed limits, yield signs, and not driving under the influence, is expected.
Negligence can be inferred from speeding, distracted driving (like texting), failing to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks, or running a red light. The driver’s actions before the accident are scrutinized to see if they failed to exercise reasonable care.
Traffic signals and signs are designed to regulate and guide both pedestrian and vehicular traffic. When an accident occurs, it’s essential to establish which party had the right of way based on these signals.
For instance, the driver may be at fault if a pedestrian is hit while crossing at a green light. Alternatively, if a pedestrian crosses during a red signal and is struck, they may bear some responsibility. Traffic signals serve as objective benchmarks in evaluating faults.
These include factors like weather, visibility, and road conditions. Poor visibility due to fog, heavy rain, or darkness can impact pedestrian and driver perception, possibly contributing to an accident. Similarly, icy or wet roads can affect a vehicle’s ability to stop or maneuver.
In assessing fault, it’s important to consider whether these environmental factors significantly contributed to the accident and if either party failed to adjust their behavior appropriately under these conditions.
Establishing fault often involves looking at these factors collectively to understand the broader context of the accident. This comprehensive view helps determine whether the pedestrian, the driver, or both shared responsibility for the incident.
What to Do If You’re Involved in a Pedestrian Accident
If you are involved in a pedestrian accident, the first step is to seek medical attention, even if the injuries seem minor. Next, consult with a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer. At Bernard Law Group, our team provides expert legal advice and representation, helping you navigate the complexities of your case.
Documenting the accident scene, collecting witness statements, and retaining all medical records are essential to building a strong case. Our lawyers work diligently to compile and present evidence that accurately reflects the incident and supports your claim.
Preventing Pedestrian Accidents: Tips for Pedestrians and Drivers
Preventing pedestrian accidents is a shared responsibility. Pedestrians should always use crosswalks, obey traffic signals, and stay vigilant while walking. Wearing visible clothing, especially at night, and avoiding distractions like using a phone while crossing the street can significantly reduce the risk of accidents.
Drivers, on the other hand, should always be on the lookout for pedestrians, slow down in pedestrian-heavy areas, and never drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Remember, a moment of distraction or negligence can change lives forever.
Understanding Pedestrian Right of Way in Washington
While pedestrians often have the right of way in Washington, it is not an absolute rule. Both pedestrians and drivers have roles to play in ensuring road safety.
If you are involved in a pedestrian accident, remember that the Bernard Law Group is here to help. Our team of experienced auto accident lawyers is committed to providing the best legal representation and ensuring that your rights are upheld.
For more information or to schedule a consultation, contact Bernard Law Group. Let us guide you through your legal journey with expertise, compassion, and a commitment to justice.