Drivers Must Yield to Pedestrians?

Question

Nancy asked: In the Spring 2016 Messenger, Positive Spin article, it stated that motorists are required to stop or yield to a pedestrian crossing the street. Does that apply to cross walks or anywhere? I see a lot of people darting through traffic when a cross walk is just a few yards away. I pray that I don’t hit anyone but sometimes you don’t see the person until you are on them. Common sense tells me to cross at the cross walk but if one is not near, stop, look both ways and cross carefully. Please clarify.

Answer

Pedestrians do not always have the right of way, and motorists are not required to yield to them in all circumstances. Obviously, a driver should always attempt to avoid colliding with a pedestrian or anyone else, even if that party is violating the law.

In certain circumstances, a pedestrian is required to use a crosswalk.

s. 316.130 Pedestrians; Traffic Regulations

(11) Between adjacent intersections at which traffic control signals are in operation, pedestrians shall not cross at any place except in a marked crosswalk.

The rules for right of way at intersections are pretty clear.

(7)(a) The driver of a vehicle at an intersection that has a traffic control signal in place shall stop before entering the crosswalk and remain stopped to allow a pedestrian, with a permitted signal, to cross a roadway when the pedestrian is in the crosswalk ….

(b) The driver of a vehicle at any crosswalk where signage so indicates shall stop and remain stopped to allow a pedestrian to cross a roadway when the pedestrian is in the crosswalk ….

(c) When traffic control signals are not in place or in operation and there is no signage indicating otherwise, the driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way, slowing down or stopping if need be to so yield, to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a crosswalk when the pedestrian ….

All of the three provisions in (7) above also add this requirement to yield when the pedestrian

…. steps into the crosswalk and is upon the half of the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling or when the pedestrian is approaching so closely from the opposite half of the roadway as to be in danger.

Simply being in the crosswalk does not necessarily impart right of way. One cannot dart in front of an oncoming vehicle into a crosswalk or otherwise and expect the driver to be able to stop in time.

(8) No pedestrian shall suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is impossible for the driver to yield.

Normally, pedestrians must cross perpendicular to the roadway.

(12) No pedestrian shall, except in a marked crosswalk, cross a roadway at any other place than by a route at right angles to the curb or by the shortest route to the opposite curb.

(14) No pedestrian shall cross a roadway intersection diagonally unless authorized by official traffic control devices, and, when authorized to cross diagonally, pedestrians shall cross only in accordance with the official traffic control devices pertaining to such crossing movements.

In the Pedestrian Regulations and other statutes, there are due care provisions that caution drivers to avoid colliding with pedestrians.

(15) Notwithstanding other provisions of this chapter, every driver of a vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian ….

However, note that in the due care statutes below the pedestrian must be in compliance with legal requirements.

s. 316.183Unlawful Speed

(1) No person shall drive a vehicle on a highway at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions and having regard to the actual and potential hazards then existing. In every event, speed shall be controlled as may be necessary to avoid colliding with any person …. on or entering the highway in compliance with legal requirements and the duty of all persons to use due care.

(4) The driver of every vehicle shall, consistent with the requirements of subsection (1), drive at an appropriately reduced speed when:

(e) Any special hazard exists with respect to pedestrians ….

s. 316.185Special Hazards

The fact that the speed of a vehicle is lower than the prescribed limits shall not relieve the driver from the duty to decrease speed when …. special hazards exist or may exist with respect to pedestrians …. speed shall be decreased as may be necessary to avoid colliding with any person …. on or entering the street in compliance with legal requirements and the duty of all persons to use due care.

Posted in Ask Geo, Sidewalks & Crosswalks
2 comments on “Drivers Must Yield to Pedestrians?
  1. fred says:

    (11) provides for an exception with which I was unaware until now. “Between adjacent intersections at which traffic control signals are in operation…”
    That means law enforcement may be in error to write a citation for a pedestrian crossing not at a crosswalk, if there is an unregulated intersection between those with traffic control signals, doesn’t it?

    The definition of intersection does not provide any indication that my supposition is incorrect:

    316.003
    (17) INTERSECTION.—
    (a) The area embraced within the prolongation or connection of the lateral curblines; or, if none, then the lateral boundary lines of the roadways of two highways which join one another at, or approximately at, right angles; or the area within which vehicles traveling upon different highways joining at any other angle may come in conflict.
    (b) Where a highway includes two roadways 30 feet or more apart, then every crossing of each roadway of such divided highway by an intersecting highway shall be regarded as a separate intersection. In the event such intersecting highway also includes two roadways 30 feet or more apart, then every crossing of two roadways of such highways shall be regarded as a separate intersection.

    I’m inclined to agree that one should not target a crossing pedestrian simply because that person is not in a marked (or unmarked!) crosswalk. Geo does make me feel better about not stopping in the middle of a roadway because someone thinks he can dash across six lanes and dance between oncoming cars!

  2. Most pedestrians who cross streets where crosswalks are “just a few yards away” appear to do so so as (1) to take a small short cut, e.g., to a bus stop, convenience store, supermarket, parking facility, etc., on the far side of the street or (2) to detour behind a vehicle or vehicles stopped in or moving across the crosswalk, especially the vehicle of a driver who is preparing to make a right turn after stopping on red.

    There is no legal requirement for a driver to yield the way to a pedestrian who crosses outside of a (marked or unmarked) crosswalk, and such pedestrians can be a bit difficult to notice if they thread through multiple lanes of stopped traffic (drivers expect to see any crossing pedestrian in the crosswalk), but the driver is still expected to exercise reasonable “due care” to try to avoid hitting a pedestrian (as set forth in provisions quoted by Geo). Of course, pedestrians are also supposed to exercise “due care”.

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