It’s true that pedestrians usually have the right-of-way, and that motorists bear most of the responsibility in ensuring everyone’s safety. However, pedestrians have certain responsibilities and rules they must follow to keep themselves safe, too.
You may have noticed reminders in your community recently about pedestrian safety. Check out more about programs for your specific community by contacting the GTSC.
In the meantime, let’s brush up on exactly what each traveler – by car and by foot – can do to prevent pedestrian accidents. Beyond legal liability, this is particularly important for pedestrians because of how serious the injuries often are when someone who’s walking gets hit by a motor vehicle.
A Quick Overview of New York Traffic Laws for Pedestrians
New York traffic law states that pedestrians must obey traffic control signals when they are crossing the street. When there are no signals, drivers must yield to pedestrians crossing alleyways, parking garages, private roads, and driveways, or if they are in a crosswalk.
However, were you aware that if there is no crosswalk, a pedestrian must yield the right-of-way to the vehicle? You can find this and other important guidelines in the Pedestrians’ Rights and Duties Article 27.
Should you find yourself on either side of a pedestrian knockdown, the circumstances of your accident will be evaluated against those guidelines in order determine the negligent party. So, it’s important to familiarize yourself with them.
Beyond that, here are some common-sense actions both drivers and pedestrians should incorporate into their daily commutes:
Be as Visible as Possible
Drivers and pedestrians alike should make eye contact – especially in poor weather, low light, or after it’s already dark out. Additionally, pedestrians should wear light colored and reflective clothing at night, and bright colored clothing in the day. Also, stay in well-lit areas when crossing the street at night.
Motorists, concentrate on driving, and pay extra attention in zones where children may be present. Do not get caught texting and driving. Also consider weather conditions, visibility changes, and the general state of traffic affairs.
As a pedestrian, you see and hear things better than someone inside a vehicle. Use this to your advantage. Don’t get caught staring at your electronic device or let yourself be absorbed by the world inside your ear buds at the wrong time.
Follow the Law
Drivers need to stick to speed limits, be sure to use turn signals, and obey traffic signs. Pedestrians are counting on you.
However, pedestrians can’t assume a driver can see them and will give them the right of way. Know the driving rules – but know the other traffic laws, too.
Use Crosswalks & Other Safe Places
Pedestrians are most protected inside the lines, so don’t jaywalk if you don’t have to. Otherwise, look for a street light on the road and wait for a long enough gap to safely make it across.
Don’t ever just dart out into traffic. If you absolutely must walk on a roadway, take the far side of the road facing oncoming traffic. Motorists, pay attention.
Avoid Being Under the Influence
We hope that we don’t need to remind motorists about why driving under the influence is dangerous.
However, pedestrians should also remember that alcohol (or any other drug for that matter) impairs you just the same as it would if you were to get behind the wheel.
Yes, it’s always a better decision to walk than to drive if you have had something to drink, but you need to be aware of your current surroundings. Stop and sober up if possible. It could save your life.
In the end, we all need to be responsible for both ourselves and each other to prevent accidents. Take this to heart and do your part.