Knowing Your Pedestrian Rights and Responsibilities

A pedestrian walks through a crosswalk

Knowing your pedestrian rights and responsibilities can keep you and vehicles safe on the road.

Life as a pedestrian can be scary, with aggressive and distracted drivers sometimes making safe passage through populated areas feel precarious. Whether you are walking to school, work, or just around your community, you have the right as a pedestrian to enjoy safe and available walking spaces. However, similar to when you are driving, you have specific responsibilities as a pedestrian that help keep everyone on the roadways and sidewalks safe. Simons & Goldner has created a convenient guide to help you remember your legal pedestrian rights and responsibilities.

Pedestrian Rights

As a pedestrian, you have a right to use the road the same as anybody else, albeit in specific ways that have been designated for pedestrian use, whether that be sidewalks or crosswalks. You may walk on the road if there are no sidewalks, but you must be as close to the shoulder as possible, unless it is a freeway, which pedestrians are not allowed to walk on. 

Right of Way

When referring to pedestrian’s “right of way,” we are referring to the legal right of a pedestrian, in this instance, to proceed with precedence over others in a situation. When a pedestrian has “right of way” over a vehicle, that means if the car were to move and strike the pedestrian, the vehicle was legally at fault for the collision. 

When Pedestrians Have the Right of Way

  • On a sidewalk
  • At a crosswalk where the traffic signals are permitting pedestrians to walk. For instance, when the crosswalk shows a person walking or the sign “walk.”
  • At a crosswalk without traffic signals. For example, in many parking lots, there will be crosswalks for pedestrians from the store to the lot. There will often be signage indicating cars must stop for pedestrians in crosswalks. 
  • Furthermore, if a vehicle is stopped to allow a pedestrian to cross, the car behind them may not pass the stopped vehicle. 

Pedestrian Responsibilities

Pedestrians, as people sharing the road with drivers and bicyclists, must also abide by traffic laws. There are specific responsibilities pedestrians must adhere to for their safety as well as that of any drivers on the road. You must follow these laws as a pedestrian. If you do not, you could be liable if any incidents were to occur. 

  • You must use a sidewalk when one is present
  • You must use a marked crosswalk when one is present
  • You must obey the signals of a traffic control device when one is present at a crosswalk. If the signal starts flashing while you are crossing, you are permitted to continue crossing the street
  • When there is no crosswalk, you must yield the right of way to traffic when trying to cross the street. 
  • You must always yield the right of way to public safety vehicles (ambulances, police cruisers), and vehicles in a funeral procession
  • You are not permitted to walk on the freeway unless you’ve experienced an emergency or your vehicle has broken down. 
  • You are not permitted to solicit or hitch rides

Staying Safe on the Road

Despite the laws established to indicate pedestrian and vehicle right of way, many drivers are still prone to distracted or dangerous driving that can put you as a pedestrian at risk. There are a few things you can remember while out on the road that can help keep you safe. 

While Walking

  • If there is no sidewalk present on a road, walk in the opposite direction of traffic. The law requires this to help drivers see you and to help you see them
  • Avoid using your phone as much as possible. If you are looking at your phone, you are not aware of vehicles that may be coming towards you
  • If you are walking at night, wear light-colored or reflective clothing. You can also carry a flashlight or use the flashlight feature on your phone. These actions will help alert cars to your presence
  • Avoid walking near traffic if you are impaired or intoxicated in any way. 

While Crossing the Street

  • The classic advice is best: look both ways before crossing!
  • Do not assume that oncoming traffic will yield right of way when you’re in the crosswalk, or when you’re crossing the street to catch a bus or car. Make sure drivers are slowing down before you enter the street
  • Make your intentions known before crossing the street 
  • After starting to cross at an intersection, look over your shoulder for drivers who might be turning right without looking for pedestrians

What to Do if You’re Injured

You can follow the law to the letter and still be injured by a careless driver. If you, or someone with you, is injured in a pedestrian-car accident, make sure to seek medical attention right away. Document the accident and get contact information for all people involved and any witnesses. Record how it happened as you remember it, as soon as you can after the incident. You can contact an attorney, such as the ones available at Simons & Goldner, to discuss your options. You may be able to file a personal injury claim to help you pay for medical bills, lost wages, or other expenses resulting from your injuries. Knowing your pedestrian rights and responsibilities will help you prepare for any possible incidents. 

Let Simons & Goldner, P.A. Represent You

Simons & Goldner, P.A., located in Lutherville, MD, consists of two partners, Stevan G. Simons and Richard H. Goldner practicing primarily in personal injury, medical malpractice, Worker’s Compensation, and criminal law. The partners come with decades of experience assisting clients injured by the negligence of others or injured on the job. We serve clients in the Baltimore, Towson, Essex and Dundalk area and work closely with our clients to ensure that your case moves quickly and efficiently and that you get all the benefits to which you are entitled. 

Initial consultations are available by phone or in-person and are free of charge. Contact us now to schedule a consultation, or call us today at 410-296-3110. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn for advice and updates.

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