Most of us are ingrained with the idea that drivers should always yield to pedestrians. Whether the pedestrian is jaywalking or steps off the curb in the middle of a turn, we expect the driver will slow down and do whatever it takes to avoid an accident.
However, if an accident does happen, can the pedestrian ever be at fault? Put another way, do NYC pedestrians always have the right of way?
For the Most Part
In New York, pedestrians have the right of way at any crosswalk and at intersections with marked or unmarked crosswalks. Even if the intersection is unmarked, drivers should allow pedestrians to cross. Similarly, pedestrians have the right of way whenever a driver is leaving a building, a parking structure, or otherwise pulling out onto the street.
Pedestrians are expected to follow the WALK and DON’T WALK signs at any intersection with traffic signals. The traffic signals take precedence over other rules of the road, like a driver’s ability to turn against a red light.
If a pedestrian is waiting at an unmarked crosswalk or a crossing with no traffic signals, the driver should yield. Pedestrians can assert themselves at these intersections by making eye contact with the driver.
Pedestrians do not always have the right of way. A pedestrian may not walk in the road, for example. Regardless, a driver should yield to a pedestrian in the road, even if they are blocking the way forward. If the pedestrian refuses to step out of the road, drivers must wait for them to move.
Pedestrians may not step into the road when doing so would endanger themselves or nearby drivers. New York codes state, “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 impractical for the driver to yield.”
In other words, a pedestrian cannot step off the sidewalk when it would be dangerous to do so, and they are expected to use pedestrian overpasses and tunnels to avoid high-traffic intersections when applicable.
Though these rules may seem simple, determining fault and the full damages in a pedestrian crash can be extremely stressful, especially when victims are seriously injured and focused on feeling better. For that reason, it’s often wise to leave the negotiating to an experienced pedestrian accident attorney who is familiar with the legal process.