Pedestrian Right of Way Laws
These laws define who must stop for whom when a vehicle and a foot traveler meet. Specifics vary by state. Some states only require that vehicles yield to pedestrians, while others require that the vehicle comes to a full stop.
This definition seems simple, but who is considered a pedestrian depends on state and local law. In some areas it applies to any travelers on foot. In others, the definition is expanded to include skaters, skateboarders, and scooter riders.
Why Pedestrian Right of Way is Important
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), nearly 4,400 pedestrians are killed in auto collisions each year. In 2015, this number jumped by nearly 10 percent. These figures don’t include injuries. Alcohol is a major contributing factor to this type of accident: nearly half of the fatalities involved an intoxicated driver or foot traveler.
Pedestrian Right of Way Laws by State
Most right of way laws address both driver and pedestrian behavior. They typically require motorists yield to walkers or runners in a controlled crosswalk. Pedestrians are prohibited from darting into traffic, whether from a curb or between parked cars. Some states also include clauses that prohibit walkers from being under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Specific regulations in each state detail what drivers are required to do and the circumstances dictating those actions.
Minnesotans must stop whenever an individual is in the roadway.
Residents of Georgia, Maryland, Nebraska, Oregon, and the District of Columbia (DC) must stop when a pedestrian is in their lane. In New Jersey, this regulation applies only to marked crosswalks.
Drivers in Hawaii, Illinios, and Washington must stop for walkers on their half of the road, or when pedestrians approach from the opposite side of the road in a manner that constitutes a dangerous situation.
Residents of these states must yield to pedestrians in any part of the roadway: Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Virginia, Vermont, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. In New Jersey, this regulation applies only to unmarked crosswalks.
Louisiana drivers are required to yield when walkers are in their half of the roadway.
Drivers in these states must yield when pedestrians are in their half of the road or are approaching from the opposite side: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia.
Nebraska residents must yield to walkers on their half of the highway or within one lane of the vehicle.
Massachusetts drivers are required to yield when pedestrians are on the same half of the roadway or within 10 feet of their vehicle.
What Happens After a Car-Pedestrian Accident?
In many cases, the driver is at fault for insurance and legal purposes. The driver’s responsibility for defensive driving is presumed. However, the pedestrian may be at fault or share fault under certain circumstances, such as being intoxicated, walking in areas where pedestrian access is prohibited, or crossing against a traffic signal.
For insurance purposes, the accident is handled much the same as any other collision. Legally, you should always stop, call for emergency assistance, and exchange insurance information with the pedestrian. Failure to do so can result in criminal charges, regardless of whether the accident results in fatality.
Laws in each state are nuanced, so check exact legal language if you receive a ticket for a pedestrian right of way violation. Drive carefully, and pay close attention to curbs, crosswalks, and intersections. Special care should be taken at night. Remember, these laws are in place to protect both drivers and walkers.