Pedestrians legally have the right of way at crosswalks, allowing them to cross intersections safely. Yet, in some tragic cases, drivers fail to yield this right of way, leading to catastrophic injuries or even fatalities. In this article, we will examine drivers’ duty to yield and the consequences of disregarding pedestrian’s right of way:
The Legal Duty of Motorists to Yield
Laws across the United States require motorists to yield the right of way to pedestrians in marked crosswalks, whether at signalized intersections or elsewhere. Drivers must slow down, prepare to stop, and allow pedestrians to fully cross the road before proceeding.
Unfortunately, not all motorists follow this rule. This puts pedestrians in grave danger. Not only that, but it can land the motorists in a lot of trouble. Motorists who continue driving through crosswalks may face fines, citations, license suspension, or criminal charges for injuring or killing pedestrians. Pedestrians always have the right of way in these situations.
Unique Risk for Disabled and Elderly People
Disabled individuals and people who are elderly face particular risks when drivers fail to yield. Physical limitations can prevent them from hurrying out of the way of an oncoming vehicle.
Tragically, statistics show that over 25% of pedestrian fatalities in the US involve seniors over 65. Impaired mobility, hearing, and vision make crossing the streets challenging, which is all the more reason why drivers must remain vigilant and respect the right of way.
Driver Distraction and Inattention
Most failures to yield stem from distracted or inattentive driving. Entertainment systems, texting, and even conversing with passengers can divert drivers’ eyes and minds from watching out for pedestrians. Impaired drivers under the influence of drugs or alcohol also pose threats.
Momentary glances away or delayed response times mean drivers don’t see walkers entering crosswalks or don’t react in time. Their duty to yield requires full attention and focus on the road at all times.
Aggressive Driving Behaviors
In some cases, drivers aggressively accelerate through crosswalks despite clearly seeing pedestrians in their path. They may be speeding, running red lights or stop signs, or simply acting recklessly and impatient around intersections.
These dangerous behaviors show blatant disregard for pedestrian right of way. Severe criminal penalties often apply when drivers willfully ignore yielding duties through reckless actions. License revocation, jail time, and substantial fines help deter such life-threatening conduct.
Red Light and Stop Sign Violations
Running red lights and stop signs presents one of the most significant yielding hazards to pedestrians. Drivers preoccupied with hurrying or beating traffic signals frequently blast through crosswalks against the light or without stopping. This jeopardizes pedestrians legally crossing at the signal or stop sign. Even cautious walkers can be struck by red light runners whose negligence overrides the pedestrian right of way. Intersection cameras increasingly capture and fine such violations.
“Turning Vehicle” Accidents
Many drivers failing to yield incidents involve left or right-turning vehicles at intersections. Drivers look left for oncoming cars but neglect to check for pedestrians on their right preparing to cross. By focusing only on parallel traffic, drivers miss seeing walkers and illegally turn directly into their path. Pedestrians on crosswalks always have the right of way over turning vehicles in these situations.
What Pedestrians Should Do if a Driver Ignores Their Right of Way
As mentioned above, as a pedestrian, you have the legal right of way when crossing streets or at intersections. However, some drivers fail to yield that right of way, leaving you in danger. If a vehicle does not stop in this situation and continues toward you, here are some tips on how to respond:
- Get out of the way – First and foremost, you must get out of the way if possible. Safety should be your top concern. Move quickly onto the sidewalk, grass, or any safe area to avoid being struck. Do not assume the driver sees you or will stop. Clear the area entirely until the vehicle passes.
- Make eye contact – If you can, make eye contact with the driver. Some drivers are simply distracted or careless. Looking directly at them and waving your arms may alert them to your presence so they stop in time. Never stare at your phone or have headphones in when crossing streets.
- Follow pedestrian signals – Only cross when you see the ‘Walk’ sign. Avoid stepping into intersections on a solid or flashing ‘Don’t Walk’ sign, even if cars are stopped. Drivers may accelerate through a green light without noticing you. Heed crossing signals at all times.
- Be cautious at stop signs – Vehicles frequently roll through crosswalks while focused on traffic rather than pedestrians. Ensure cars come to a complete stop and the driver sees you before crossing in front of a stop sign. Be prepared to retreat if needed.
- Avoid confrontation – As frustrating as it can be when drivers deny your right of way, do not hit vehicles, yell at drivers, or escalate conflicts. This can put you in legal jeopardy and further endanger your safety. Getting video evidence is smarter than confrontation.
- Report serious incidents to the police – If a driver’s failure to yield forced you into evasive maneuvers or caused injury or property damage, file a report. Provide license details, vehicle descriptions, and any available footage. Police can issue citations or even criminal charges for these types of violations.
- Capture video documentation – Whenever possible, use your cellphone to record drivers who disregard your presence in crosswalks. This creates robust evidence for ticketing purposes or potential injury claims later. But get out of harm’s way first before stopping to record.
- File a lawsuit for negligence – If a driver’s failure to yield causes injury, an attorney can help you pursue legal action and obtain compensation for medical bills, lost income, and pain and suffering. Strict adherence to pedestrian right-of-way laws supports negligence claims.
Adhering to the duty to yield right of way protects vulnerable road users. When drivers disregard pedestrian rights through inattention, aggression, or impatience, horrific outcomes result. By respecting laws requiring yielding and driving carefully near crosswalks, motorists can help prevent these needless tragedies.
Unfortunately, each year in the US, thousands of innocent people are severely injured or killed by drivers who fail to yield to pedestrians. If you’ve been involved in one of these accidents, our team of lawyers at Pencheff & Fraley can help. You can visit our offices today at:
- Westerville – 4151 Executive Pkwy, Suite 355, Westerville, OH 43081
- Mansfield – 33 S. Lexington-Springmill Rd, Mansfield, OH 44906
Or alternatively, call now for a free consultation on (614) 224-4114.