Pedestrian Right of Way: How to Avoid an Accident | Quick Accident & Injury Attorneys, APC (2023)

With more cars on the road today than ever before, accidents between motor vehicles and pedestrians are sadly common. According to the US Department of Transportation National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2017, there were nearly 6,000 pedestrian fatalities, making up 16 percent of the total fatalities in motor vehicle crashes.

Here are some tips to help you as a driver avoid an accident with a pedestrian, which can carry stiff penalties, including prison time for some situations if you are found at fault in the accident. Learn how to know when a pedestrian has the right of way and when pedestrian-motor vehicle accidents are most likely to happen so that you can be extra vigilant. Also, when the shoe is on the other foot, and you are a pedestrian yourself, it’s good to know how to avoid being a victim in a car-pedestrian accident.

Pedestrian Right of Way Laws

In general, pedestrians nearly always have the right of way. (The next section will talk about when pedestrians are in the wrong.) Of course, avoiding an accident with a pedestrian regardless of who is in the right should be your primary goal. But it helps to know the rules regarding pedestrian right of way, so you can slow down and be extra cautious in these scenarios.

Traffic Lights

At traffic lights, pedestrians always have the right of way when the light is in their favor. Does that mean the moment the light turns green you can step on your accelerator and roar into the intersection? No.

Always wait for pedestrian traffic to clear the intersection, just like you would wait for cars to finish crossing during a light change. Be especially patient with older individuals on foot, disabled people, children, and people crossing with pets.

When you approach an intersection with a traffic light, never “floor it” during a yellow light in an attempt to make it through the crossing before the light turns red. Slow down in anticipation of people crossing the second the light changes.

If you are turning right on a red light, always be extra careful that everyone has crossed on foot before making your turn. Even if you think you can make the turn before a far away pedestrian reaches your lane, you may be given a traffic ticket for an unsafe turn. Technically, you should never turn right on red if there is a single pedestrian anywhere in the crosswalk, even multiple lanes away from you.

(Video) Pedestrian Right of Way

Stop Signs and Yield Signs

Stop signs and yield signs are like traffic lights but with even more ambiguity. There is often a question of who arrived at the intersection first and who has the right of way. In the case of pedestrians, always give them the right of way, even if it means waiting for a moment for them to cross.

The only exception to a pedestrian having the right of way at a stop sign or yield sign is if a police officer or crossing guard motions you through the intersection and tells pedestrians to wait.

School Zones

School zones are an area where pedestrians particularly have the right of way. Pay extra attention to traffic lights, stop signs, yield signs, and crossing guards at school zone crossings. Also, expect the speed limit to be significantly reduced in a school zone. To reduce your risk of an accident with a pedestrian in a school zone, avoid these areas during peak school traffic hours whenever possible.

Don’t forget that the stop sign used by a school bus creates a temporary school zone wherever it is used. Whether you are behind the bus or approaching it in an oncoming lane, if the bus puts out its stop sign and flashes its lights, you must stop and yield to the children disembarking. Always wait for kids to cross the road and for the bus to start up again before moving your own vehicle.

Uncontrolled Intersections

Uncontrolled intersections present even more confusion for drivers than stop signs do. An uncontrolled intersection is where two roads meet without any traffic lights or stop signs.

In this instance, the pedestrian still has the right of way. If you see a pedestrian on the periphery of an uncontrolled intersection, slow down or stop until you determine whether or not they wish to cross. At uncontrolled intersections where you know there are likely to be pedestrians, such as near a school zone, anticipate foot traffic and slow down accordingly, keeping your eyes carefully on the road.

Emergency and Road Work Scenes

Any time there are emergency workers or road workers in the vicinity, these pedestrians have the right of way. Usually, road work areas have signs warning you about impending workers. However, you may drive up unexpectedly on an accident or a car pulled over by law enforcement.

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In any situation where first responders like police officers and firefighters are working, exercise extreme caution and expect pedestrian traffic in front of you. There may not be space for them to work without being in traffic lanes. If you have the opportunity to move into another lane, do so, but check your speed until you have cleared the area.

When Pedestrians Are in the Wrong

Of course, pedestrians can’t cross a road whenever they feel like it. Just because pedestrians usually have the right of way doesn’t mean they don’t also have to obey traffic laws.

Pedestrians who cross against a red traffic light with no “walk” sign and pedestrians who cross in the middle of a road instead of at a light-controlled intersection (AKA jaywalking) are typically considered not to have the right of way. Likewise, pedestrians who dart into fast-moving traffic without the protection of a light or stop sign are likely at fault.

Drivers should still yield to pedestrians whenever possible, even if they do not have the right of way. However, if you were to unavoidably hit a pedestrian with your vehicle when they did not have the right of way, you would not likely be found at fault. If you are a pedestrian in this situation, you may not have the standing to initiate a lawsuit against a driver who hits you.

How to Avoid an Accident with a Pedestrian

Regardless of who has the right of way, you want to avoid an accident with a pedestrian under any circumstances. Here are some tips for drivers to help keep everyone safe.

  • Avoid distractions when you are driving: turn down the stereo, avoid using your mobile phone, and keep kids and pets safely restrained.
  • Don’t drive over the speed limit. Expect the speed limit to be reduced as you approach intersections, town centers, school zones, and work zones.
  • Watch road signs carefully, especially stop signs, yield signs, school zones, and work zones.
  • If you drive a large vehicle, such as an SUV or a truck, know that it takes longer to slow down. Begin slowing earlier to come to a stop by the time you need to. Avoid stopping in an intersection to give pedestrians proper room.
  • Don’t accelerate at yellow lights, hoping to make it before the light turns red.
  • Be vigilant when you see joggers, skateboarders, or people wearing headphones who may be oblivious to traffic around them.
  • Allow extra time for certain people to cross the street, particularly seniors and children, as well as people with disabilities, such as people in wheelchairs.
  • Don’t hang objects from your rearview mirror or your side windows that could impede your vision of the area outside your vehicle.
  • Never turn right on red if there are pedestrians anywhere in the crosswalk, even if they aren’t near you and you think you can make the turn before they reach your lane.
  • Be extra cautious in bad weather, when the streets are slippery, and in the dark, including dusk and dawn. Statistics show that a greater number of pedestrian-involved accidents happen during this time.
  • Never drive impaired, whether from alcohol, recreational drugs, or even prescription drugs like antihistamines, sleep aids, or pain medications. Driver impairment is also statistically more likely to be a factor in all vehicle accidents, including those with pedestrians.
  • Avoid known school and work zones during peak hours when possible.
  • Don’t pass another vehicle in a crosswalk or intersection because you may not see a pedestrian nearby. Always wait until you are away from the intersection to pass.

If you are a pedestrian, follow these tips to reduce your risk of being hit by a car:

  • Make yourself visible, especially during low-light conditions. Wear a reflective vest or jacket if necessary.
  • Don’t assume traffic will yield to you. Make sure cars have fully stopped before stepping into an intersection.
  • Avoid jaywalking: don’t cross in the middle of the street between traffic lights.
  • Don’t walk while impaired.
  • If you use headphones while a pedestrian, turn down the volume. Stay alert to traffic and sounds around you.
  • If there is no sidewalk, walk on the correct side of the road, facing oncoming traffic.

Advice If You Are in an Accident with a Pedestrian

Sometimes accidents with pedestrians are unavoidable. As mentioned above, people run into moving traffic without looking or cross against the light at busy intersections where drivers are moving at speed. If you are a driver in an accident involving a pedestrian, follow this advice:

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  1. Do NOT leave the scene. You may or may not be at fault, but your involvement will be compounded by running because you will have become the perpetrator in a hit-and-run accident, which is much more serious.
  2. Stop your vehicle and check on the well being of the pedestrian who was hit. In most situations, you will want to dial 911 and ask for police and ambulance assistance. Even if the victim seems fine, you want to make sure they don’t have any hidden injuries. You also want the situation documented to protect yourself should the victim take legal action in the future. If the pedestrian was not in the right of way, for example, you want a record of that. Other people on the scene can corroborate your account of what happened.
  3. Try to avoid causing further accidents. In some instances, you and the victim may need to stay put to document what transpired. However, if staying in place puts you, the victim, or others on the scene in jeopardy (such as in a busy high-speed intersection), it’s best to move to the side of the road if possible. Use your best judgment to do whatever keeps everyone safe.
  4. If the person who was hit is immobile or shouldn’t be moved due to serious injuries, ask people on the scene to assist you if they can do so safely. For example, you can ask other pedestrians to wave down traffic to go around you while you call for emergency assistance.
  5. If you should hit a pedestrian on a highway, even if the victim is severely injured or unconscious, you may need to remove them from the scene to protect both of you from being hit by traffic behind you. People driving up on your accident scene may not see you until it’s too late, especially if it’s dark. Grasp the victim under the arms and pull them to the side of the road for safety before calling for emergency help. While it’s best not to move a victim, sometimes saving their life is more important than keeping them still. Move the victim off the road and pull your vehicle to the side if you not already done so, using your hazard lights to alert others and to make your scene easy to find by emergency personnel.

If you are a pedestrian and are hit by a motor vehicle, follow the same advice as given above. Make sure law enforcement is called to the scene and ask for an ambulance to evaluate any injuries, even you think you’re okay. Sometimes shock can mask pain and hide internal injuries that should be treated immediately.

Once you are safe, get in touch with an attorney that specializes in personal injury cases and is familiar with motor vehicle accidents involving a pedestrian. At the Quirk Law Group, we work hard to make sure your injuries and losses are compensated for and that you get the personal attention you deserve to follow up on your case. Contact the Quirk Law Group today for more information if you have been a pedestrian victim of a car accident.

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Pedestrian Right of Way: How to Avoid an Accident | Quick Accident & Injury Attorneys, APC (1)

Logan Quirk


What are three ways accident can be prevented by pedestrians? ›

Some of the best ways for pedestrians to avoid accidents include increasing visibility, obeying traffic signals, crossing in crosswalks, and remaining alert.

What happens when the pedestrian is at fault? ›

What Happens if the Pedestrian is At Fault? If the pedestrian bears all of the blame for the accident, the pedestrian will probably not be able to recover compensation for injuries. In fact, the driver may be able to sue the pedestrian for compensation for any harm caused to the car or for any of the driver's injuries.

How can pedestrian fatalities be prevented? ›

Reducing vehicle speeds on the roadway. Providing space for landscaping within the right-of-way. Providing space to install additional roadway lighting, further improving the safety of the roadway. Providing space to provide supplemental signage on multilane roadways.

Why is pedestrian safety important? ›

Pedestrians are completely unprotected and vulnerable to serious injuries in a collision with a motor vehicle. Common pedestrian accident injuries include: Head trauma. Internal injuries.

What are five safety tips as pedestrian? ›

  • Prepare a safe walking route in advance.
  • Use sidewalks if they are available.
  • Walk facing the traffic if a sidewalk isn't available.
  • Obey all signs and signals.
  • Only cross streets at designated areas.
  • Stay on well-lit paths at night.
  • Wear bright colors during the day and reflective tape at night.

What is the method to avoid accident? ›

Drive in the prescribed speed limits on the various roads. Always remember that “Speed thrills but kills”. Always put on helmets, seat belts and other safety equipments before driving a bicycle/ motor cycle/vehicle.

Whose fault is it if a self driving car hits a pedestrian? ›

If you've been hit by a self-driving car, you might be wondering who is responsible. In most cases, the party at fault will be the person or company who was operating the vehicle. However, there are some exceptions. If the pedestrian was crossing the street illegally, for example, they may be partially to blame.

Are you liable if someone jumps in front of your car? ›

Law enforcement agencies and insurance company investigators will look into how the collision happened to determine who was responsible. If you're assigned any degree of fault, you may face legal repercussions and be liable for paying some of the damages caused by the collision in a wrongful death lawsuit.

What are four safety rules for pedestrians? ›

When it is safe go straight across the road – do not run. Keep looking and listening for traffic while you cross, in case there is any traffic you did not see, or in case other traffic appears suddenly. Look out for cyclists and motorcyclists travelling between lanes of traffic. Do not walk diagonally across the road.

Where do pedestrians suffer most accidents? ›

Pedestrians in Urban Areas Face the Highest Risk of Injury

Cities have more people and more traffic. With massive amounts of motorists and pedestrians coexisting in a city, it follows that the most pedestrian accidents and fatalities occur in urban areas.

Where are most pedestrians hit? ›

Most pedestrian deaths occur in urban areas, on roadway locations away from intersections (where higher speeds might occur), and at night.

What is the most important safety tip to avoid pedestrian injuries? ›

Safety Tips for Pedestrians

Walk on a sidewalk or path. If neither is available, walk facing traffic and as far from cars as possible. Cross streets at marked crosswalks or intersections whenever possible; this is where drivers expect pedestrians.

How can I improve my pedestrian safety? ›

Here are seven ways you can improve your community's pedestrian safety measures so that your people are protected during every hour of the day.
  1. Leverage Left-Turn Safety Measures. ...
  2. Provide Pedestrians a Walking Start. ...
  3. Install More Reflective Signs. ...
  4. Encourage Drivers to Slow Down. ...
  5. Swap Static Signs for Flashing LED Signs.

How do you make pedestrians feel safe? ›

Traffic signs and road markings should warn drivers that they are entering a special zone. Skid-proof pavements, high-visibility crosswalks, and wide and accessible sidewalks should make it easy for pedestrians to navigate.

What is the most common type of hazard to pedestrians? ›

7.2 Hazards to Pedestrians. The most common hazards to pedestrians at work are slips, trips and falls on the same level, falls from height, collisions with moving vehicles, being struck by moving, falling or flying objects and striking against fixed or stationary objects.

What are 6 situations in which you should be particularly careful to search for pedestrians? ›

List six situations in which you should be particularly careful to search for pedestrians. Crosswalks,intersection alleys and driveways,business districts,residential areas,and reduced visibility. As a pedestrians,what steps can you take to ensure your own safety? Make yourself visible.

What are some types of pedestrians that are more at risk and why? ›

The single category most at risk for fatality by age and gender is male pedestrians 80 and older. Pedestrians Impaired by Drugs or Alcohol. Pedestrians drunk or under the influence of drugs are at higher risk of fatality than those who are sober.

What 7 things can prevent accidents? ›

Preventing accidents is easy when you know what to do.
  • Develop the right attitude about driving. ...
  • Get as much supervised practice driving as possible. ...
  • ALWAYS wear your safety belt. ...
  • Underage drinking and drug use is illegal. ...
  • Limit your passengers. ...
  • Limit your night driving. ...
  • Keep it slow and safe for starters.

What are the 4 steps of accident prevention? ›

OSHA suggests a 4-step approach:
  • Preserve/Document The Scene.
  • Collect Information.
  • Determine The Root Causes.
  • Implement Corrective Action.
Feb 29, 2016

What is the first step of avoiding accident? ›

Inspect vehicles before and after use. DRIVE SAFELY. Continually cultivate a safety standard. Take breaks and move around regularly throughout the day.

Who should be held liable if a self-driving car causes an accident? ›

The answer to this question is generally the same as well—the parties that are typically liable for self-driving car accidents include: The driver of the “self-driving” vehicle. The vehicle's manufacturer. The manufacturer of a defective vehicle component.

Who is usually at fault in a car crash? ›

In most instances, any driver violating traffic law will be held largely responsible for a resulting car accident. If one of the drivers is issued a citation for speeding, running a light, or another violation, he or she will most likely be primarily at fault, and carry the heaviest burden of the resulting liability.

Who is responsible when a self-driving car kills someone? ›

With fully autonomous vehicles, the software and vehicle manufacturers are expected to be liable for any at-fault collisions (under existing automobile products liability laws), rather than the human occupants, the owner, or the owner's insurance company.

What is the ICD 10 code for pedestrian vehicle accident? ›

Pedestrian injured in traffic accident involving unspecified motor vehicles, initial encounter. V09. 20XA is a billable/specific ICD-10-CM code that can be used to indicate a diagnosis for reimbursement purposes.

What are three general causes of accidents? ›

Causes of Road Accidents
  • Over Speeding.
  • Drunken Driving.
  • Distractions to Driver.
  • Red Light Jumping.
  • Avoiding Safety Gears like Seat belts and Helmets.
  • Non-adherence to lane driving and overtaking in a wrong manner.

What are the top 3 causes of road accidents? ›

Traffic Lawyers Tell All: Top 10 Car Accident Causes
  • Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs.
  • Mobile Phone Use.
  • Speeding.
  • Weather Conditions.
  • Ignoring Red Lights and Stop Signs.
  • Young Drivers.
  • Night Driving.
  • Reckless Driving.

Am I at fault if I hit a car in front of me because he slammed on his brakes very suddenly? ›

This is the most common cause of rear-end collisions where the front driver is usually found at fault. If a car suddenly moves in front of you that is moving significantly slower than you are, that brakes suddenly, or that cuts too closely in front of your car, that car's driver is the cause of the accident.

Am I at fault if I hit a car in front of me because he slammed on his brakes very suddenly in India? ›

Maintaining a safe distance is highly advisable. Each driver should practice proper safe distance to avoid car accidents and personal injury. Despite how unpredictably the driver or car in front of you slammed on their brakes, it is your liability as a driver not to hit him.

What to do after someone jumps your car? ›

If you have jump-started your car, it is recommended to let your vehicle run for at least 30 minutes because it would typically require at least half an hour to charge a dead battery entirely or at least sufficiently.

What are the 3 safety precautions? ›

Hand hygiene. Use of personal protective equipment (e.g., gloves, masks, eyewear). Respiratory hygiene / cough etiquette.

What should you do if a pedestrian is crossing a non signalized pedestrian lane? ›

Where a pedestrian crossing route does not incorporate traffic signals, a traffic sign indicating “Yield to Pedestrians” should be provided adjacent to the vehicles' stop line. Traffic calming measures such as speed bumps should also be considered to reduce the speed of approaching vehicles.

What is safety precaution? ›

(ˈseɪftɪ prɪˈkɔːʃən ) a precaution that is taken in order to ensure that something is safe and not dangerous.

What are the deadliest US cities for pedestrians? ›

Fort Lauderdale is the deadliest city for pedestrians, experiencing an average of 7.7 vehicle-related pedestrian deaths per 100,000 residents yearly. There, approximately 39% of all car accident fatalities are pedestrian fatalities.

What age group has the highest pedestrian fatality rate? ›

Pedestrian motor vehicle crash deaths have increased 80 percent since reaching their low point in 2009 and account for 17 percent of crash fatalities. The rates of pedestrian deaths in motor vehicle crashes per 100,000 people are highest for people ages 20-69.

Which city in the US has the most pedestrian deaths? ›

Metro-area rankings and data
RankMetro areaAverage ped deaths/100k people per year
1Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, FL4.25
2Albuquerque, NM4.19
3Memphis, TN-MS-AR3.93
4Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL3.55
56 more rows

What type of car kills the most pedestrians? ›

Several factors contribute to these grim statistics, but a big one (pun intended) is the size of vehicles on the road. Large SUVs and pickup trucks are, unsurprisingly, more likely than smaller cars to injure or kill pedestrians due to their greater weight and taller front ends.

How can you stay safe while walking on the street? ›

If there is no sidewalk, walk facing traffic and as far from traffic as possible. Cross streets at crosswalks or intersections. Look for cars in all directions, including those turning left or right. If a crosswalk or intersection is not available, locate a well-lit area where you have the best view of traffic.

What are three accident prevention? ›

The Three Es of Injury Prevention. Workplace injury prevention is an essential part of keeping yourself and others safe and healthy. It's a good idea to be aware of the three Es of injury prevention: Education, Engineering, and Enforcement.

Which is the best way to protect pedestrians from forklift accidents? ›

Create clear walkways.

The best way to protect pedestrians from forklift injuries is to prohibit pedestrian traffic in forklift areas. Pedestrian walkways above forklift areas can keep foot traffic separate from forklift traffic, but some buildings may not be designed in a way that can accommodate elevated walkways.

What are the four basic elements of the accident prevention program? ›

Key Elements of An Accident Prevention Plan

Worker participation. Hazard identification. Hazard prevention and control. Education and training.

What is major accident prevention policy? ›

This policy extends to protection from major hazards. An on-site emergency plan has been prepared and maintained, which details the required response of the company personnel in the event of a major accident.

What is the most common injury for pedestrians? ›

The Neck, Face, and Head

Approximately 38% of pedestrians suffer an injury to their neck, face or head. Some of the common examples of these injuries include shoulder displacement, vertebrae injuries, neck injuries, jaw fractures, skull damage, lacerations, and concussions.

Does OSHA requirements pedestrian walkways? ›

OSHA guideline 29 CFR 1910.176 (a) requires pedestrian pathways and other walking areas to be clearly marked and free from obstructions at all times, which is particularly important in those areas near regular forklift activity.

Does OSHA state the pedestrian has the right of way? ›

OSHA states the pedestrian has the right of way; therefore, operators must be on constant alert. The forklift operator is required to slow down and sound their horn at doorways, intersections, blind spots and when entering or exiting a building.

When operating around pedestrians you should? ›

Warn pedestrians, by asking them to move, if there is not sufficient safe clearance. Sound the horn at blind corners, doorways and aisles. Sound the horn or other alarm when you back up.

What vehicle hits the most pedestrians? ›

Key points. Cars and light trucks (vans, pickups, and SUVs) are responsible for 85.2% of pedestrian deaths in the United States, and heavy trucks, buses, and motorcycles are responsible for the remainder.

Where do most fatal accidents with pedestrians occur? ›

Most pedestrian deaths occur in urban areas, on roadway locations away from intersections (where higher speeds might occur), and at night.


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