Pedestrian Rights & Responsibilities on Crosswalks

It’s well known that pedestrians have the right-of-way when crossing the street via a marked or unmarked crosswalk (subject to signals and other laws). While it isn’t legally required, it is critical for pedestrian safety to make eye contact with the driver of any approaching vehicles. This is necessary to determine whether the driver sees the pedestrian will actually stop, even if pedestrian has the right of way.

I handled a tragic case some years ago in which an elderly gentlemen was killed in a crosswalk on Martin Luther King Jr. Way. A bus had stopped in the curb lane, and the man walked in front of the bus into the next lane. Tragically, the driver of an car approaching the cross walk in the inside lane failed to see the gentleman crossing in in front of the bus, and struck the pedestrian. Although the pedestrian had the right of way, had he stopped and made eye contact with the approaching motorist before entering crosswalk, this tragedy could have been avoided.

According state law, “The operator of an approaching vehicle shall stop and remain stopped to allow a pedestrian to cross the roadway within a crosswalk unmarked or marked when the pedestrian is upon or within one lane of the half of the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling or onto which it is turning.” (WAC 132E-16-040)

However, pedestrians cannot make sudden movements to leave the curb and proceed into traffic and the path of oncoming vehicles to the point where it would be impossible for the operator of said vehicles to stop. Additionally, pedestrians must yield to vehicular traffic where there are no crosswalks (marked or unmarked).

To avoid personal injury or even death from a collision with vehicle traffic on a roadway, all pedestrians should follow the three-part adage our parents taught us when crossing the street: “Stop, look, and listen”. Additionally, and if vehicles are oncoming, be sure to make eye contact with the driver of the vehicle in whose path you are crossing. Such action could not only save you months of recovery time, pain and financial losses, it could also save your life.

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