Debunking the Myth that Pedestrians Always Have the Right of Way

By Michael GrossmanAugust 21, 2015Reading Time: 3 minutes

The belief that pedestrians always have the right of way on roadways has always been false, yet it's something that most people still believe to this day. Even though pedestrians don't, in fact, always have the right of way, there are many instances where they do. Hopefully, the next few paragraphs will help clear up some of the confusion surrounding this belief, and help clarify when pedestrians are in the right and when they need to re-evaluate their own practices while sharing streets with motor vehicles.

Questions answered on this page:

  • Do Pedestrians Always Have the Right of Way?
  • Does a Pedestrian Always Have the Right of Way in a Crosswalk?
  • What if There is No Safe Place to Cross the Street?
  • What Should Drivers Do to Prevent Pedestrian Accidents?

Using Crosswalks With or Without a Traffic Light

Most people know how traffic signals work for pedestrians. If the pedestrian has a "walk" signal, they have the right of way. If there are no signals, the pedestrian is able to cross when there is a green light. If there is a crosswalk, but no traffic lights, the pedestrian has the right of way as long as they enter the crosswalk in time to allow motor vehicles to yield. If a pedestrian follows these rules, he or she will always be in the right, but not, it may be the motor vehicle that has the right of way.

While most people are already aware of these laws, the laws pertaining to areas where there are no crosswalks get a little more complex. However, if both the motor vehicles and the pedestrians are using logic and are generally aware of the laws, this will help prevent most accidents from occurring.

Using Roads Safely Without Crosswalks

If no crosswalks are provided for pedestrians, they must first use sidewalks when available. Sometimes it is frustrating for pedestrians, especially those who reside in the suburbs of some cities, because there are no crosswalks or sidewalks available. Pedestrians can still practice safety in these areas, even though it is more difficult. Here are the rules for these areas, according to the Texas Transportation Code for Pedestrians:

Sec. 552.006. USE OF SIDEWALK. (a) A pedestrian may not walk along and on a roadway if an adjacent sidewalk is provided and is accessible to the pedestrian.
(b) If a sidewalk is not provided, a pedestrian walking along and on a highway shall if possible walk on:
(1) the left side of the roadway; or
(2) the shoulder of the highway facing oncoming traffic.
(c) The operator of a vehicle emerging from or entering an alley, building, or private road or driveway shall yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian approaching on a sidewalk extending across the alley, building entrance or exit, road, or driveway.

If sidewalks are available, they must be used, and if they are not available, the pedestrian must walk on the left side of the road facing traffic, or on the shoulder if one is available. If all of the above laws are taken into consideration, then the pedestrian will most likely have the right of way, but the truth is that many people take dangerous risks while walking and motor vehicles often can't stop in time.

Taking Precautions Against Accidents

Many people are killed each day because they walk at a dangerous time of day, in the early morning or evening hours when visibility is low. Combine this with an incorrect use of roadways, such as walking with the flow of traffic, crossing at an area other than a crosswalk when one is available, or crossing in areas where vehicles travel at a higher rate of speed, and the results are often disastrous. However, pedestrians are not the only ones at fault here. Motor vehicles need to make sure they are always paying attention to the roadways, are going the speed limit, are using headlights when lighting is bad, and use extra precautions when any pedestrians are spotted on the roadway, especially children and those with disabilities.

If an accident does happen between a pedestrian and a motor vehicle, an investigator or attorney will provide the jury with evidence that will help them decide who was most at fault in an incident if the situation seems unclear. If you have any questions that were not answered here, feel free to contact us any time.